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The Best Time and Attendance Systems of 2021

By
Skye Schooley
,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Oct 06, 2021

Here are the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, including cloud services, timeclocks and apps for mobile workforces.
Best for Employee Productivity
Visit Site
Transparent activity metrics
Off-track reminders
Automated screenshots
Best for Restaurants and Retail
When I Work
Photo clock-in options
Shift bidding and trading
Break management features
Best for Automation
BambooHR Time and Attendance
Workflow automation
Employee self-service
Easy-to-use dashboard
Best for Scaling Businesses
TimeClock Plus
Monthly and annual pricing
Several add-ons available
Various hardware options
Best for Hybrid Teams
Clockify
Project and task tracking
Live employee status view
Time-tracking reminders
Here are the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, including cloud services, timeclocks and apps for mobile workforces.
 
  • Time and attendance systems digitize the process of tracking when employees start and end their shifts.
  • These systems offer mobile apps and remote clock-in options for a distributed or remote workforce.
  • Time and attendance systems offer workforce reports and exports that provide data to your payroll system.
  • This article is for small business owners and HR professionals who are considering implementing time and attendance software to better track employee hours.

Time and attendance systems track how long employees work each day. The best solutions are easy to use, give employees multiple ways to clock in and out, manage paid time off (PTO), and easily integrate with your payroll service. To find the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, we evaluated several systems based on a number of factors, including cost, ease of use, integration options and valuable features.

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Compare Our Best Picks

Company Editor's score Best use case Free trial Starting price by plan Cloud-based or on-premises software Employee scheduling Mobile app Customer service
QuickBooks Time 96/100 Mobile workforces 30 days $20 per month, plus $8 per user per month (base fee includes 1 admin) Cloud Yes iOS and Android Phone, webchat, social media
When I Work 96/100 Restaurants and retail 14 days $4 per user per month Cloud Yes iOS and Android Ticketing
Paychex Flex 95/100 All-in-one HR solution None Customized by plan Cloud Yes iOS and Android Phone, webchat
Rippling 94/100 Ease of use None $8 per user per month Cloud No iOS and Android Email, webchat, ticketing (phone support with HR help desk add-on)
BambooHR 94/100 Automation 7 days Customized by plan Cloud No iOS and Android Phone, email
OnTheClock 93/100 Smaller growing businesses 30 days $3 per employee per month (free plan also available) Cloud Yes iOS and Android Phone, email, text, webchat
TCP by TimeClock Plus 92/100 Scaling businesses None $2.50 per employee per month or $25 per employee per year Cloud Select plans iOS and Android (for additional fee) Phone, webchat, ticketing
Buddy Punch 87/100 Policy compliance management 14 days $25.99 per month (for up to 4 users), billed annually Cloud Yes iOS and Android Email, webchat
Clockify 85/100 Hybrid teams 7 days Free, with add-ons starting at $3.99 per user per month Cloud No iOS and Android Phone, email, webchat, ticketing
TimeClick 81/100 In-office teams 14 days $199 one-time purchase, with optional support plan for $99 per year On-premises Yes iOS and Android (with select plans) Phone, email, webchat (1 year of support included)
PurelyHR 80/100 Customization 21 days $4.50 per employee per month, billed annually Cloud Yes None Phone, email
Time Doctor 80/100 Employee productivity 14 days $6 per user per month, billed annually Cloud Yes iOS and Android Email, webchat

Our Reviews

Time Doctor: Best Time and Attendance System for Employee Productivity

Time Doctor has daily time reports that let employees see their activity metrics.
Time Doctor can track employees' time and attendance, breaks, and web and application usage.
It does not offer geofencing to set and enforce work location boundaries.
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Time Doctor has several features that allow you to monitor your employees' activity, which can be a great way to track and encourage productivity. For example, you can track user activity, monitor employees' website and application usage, and set up distraction and time-use alerts. Time Doctor is one of the only time-tracking systems that lets you take screenshots of employees' devices. Of course, it also offers standard time and attendance features like time tracking, project tracking, and timesheet approvals.

Time Doctor helps employees stay on task with useful alerts and reminders for when they visit non-work-related websites. It also gives them reports of their daily activity metrics, which is a level of transparency you don't always find in competing software. These features allow employees to quickly identify where they can improve productivity.

Another great thing about Time Doctor is that many of its tracking features (e.g., screenshots) can be turned on and off as needed, so you can determine what level of monitoring best fits your business. In addition, you and your managers can view timesheets and detailed productivity reports to keep an eye on your team's attendance and success.

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When I Work: Best Time and Attendance System for Restaurants and Retail

When I Work includes extensive scheduling tools.
The software integrates with popular payroll solutions.
If you need customer support, you will need to log in to your account to chat with a representative.

When I Work is an ideal solution for businesses with shift workers, such as restaurants and retail stores. It includes scheduling tools that allow the software to compare schedules with actual hours worked automatically. The software offers photo clock-in options to prevent "buddy punching" (i.e., workers clocking in for someone else). It also has early clock-in prevention and break management features to ensure your restaurant or retail staff are working the correct hours. These features can be essential to restaurants and retailers, and not every time and attendance system offers them.

When I Work is a great time and attendance solution that offers low pricing for businesses of any size, which is ideal for restaurants and retailers with fluctuating staff numbers. The software is among the most affordable on the market, starting at just $2 per employee per month. This plan gives you access to the scheduling tools, including drag-and-drop shift scheduling, auto-scheduling, shift bidding and trading, and PTO management. If you want all of the time and attendance functionality, it costs an additional $2 per employee per month. No contracts are required, and you can test out the software for 14 days for free. When I Work can support multiple locations and business types, so you can continue to use its services as your business expands.

Read When I Work Review

BambooHR Time and Attendance: Best Time and Attendance System for Automation

You can add time-tracking features to any BambooHR plan.
BambooHR offers tailored workflows and approvals to automate your HR functions.
It doesn't list pricing online, and some users say it can be expensive.

BambooHR has several automation features that streamline time and attendance tracking. For example, you can create approval workflows, set automatic reminders, and access automatic overtime calculations. You and your team managers can easily customize PTO policies for teams or individuals and change accruals by location or department.

From there, you can automate PTO management as well. For example, employees can check their PTO balance and submit PTO requests through BambooHR. The requests go to the appropriate managers for approval or rejection, and then employees are notified of the decision. The employee's new PTO balance automatically updates to reflect the change.

If you add on the payroll feature, BambooHR will automatically file payroll taxes and end-of-year forms for you. The BambooHR software can integrate with several other applications, including employee scheduling apps, so your company information easily transfers between platforms. It can also integrate with popular job boards like ZipRecruiter to streamline the recruitment and hiring process. BambooHR users can now access new candidate talent pools, configure new hire packets and fine-tune each employee's onboarding experience.

Employees can access the mobile app to clock in and out, check their timesheets, fix timecard errors, and log client-specific hours. The BambooHR platform is one of the few we reviewed that also lets employees use single sign-on to simplify (and secure) their logins to their self-service dashboards.

Read BambooHR Time and Attendance Review

TimeClock Plus: Best Time and Attendance Systems for Scaling Businesses

TCP lets you build a time and attendance solution with features that match your business needs.
TCP integrates with most major payroll providers.
The reports are somewhat basic.

TCP by TimeClock Plus is cloud-based time and attendance software geared toward midsize and large businesses. However, it is flexible enough to work for any size of business, which is ideal for any business with near-term plans to scale up operations. TCP offers affordable annual and monthly pricing for time and attendance features and full workforce management solutions. It is one of the only systems we reviewed that offers several customization options (such as job costing, shift differential, advanced leave and overtime, and substitute management), so you can add on to your plan as your company grows.

As a TCP user, you can access essential time and attendance features like time tracking, employee management, job code management, overtime calculations, reports, PTO and leave management, employee scheduling, and geofencing. TCP also offers the most diverse options for time clock hardware, such as the TCP Core time clock, touchless badge readers and a biometric time clock. It is also the only company we reviewed that offers thermal-sensor time clocks, which can be a great way to keep your growing team safe and healthy.

Although these options can be expensive, you can conveniently start with the web-based software on your company computers or the mobile app on your iOS or Android devices and then add on advanced time clock hardware as your needs grow.

Read TimeClock Plus Review

Clockify: Best Time and Attendance System for Hybrid Teams

Clockify offers a free-forever plan that allows unlimited tracking, users, projects and reports.
Clockify allows employees to enter their time manually or enable a force timer to track their hours automatically.
It doesn't include scheduling tools.

Clockify is a great time and attendance system for businesses with in-office and remote teams. It allows employees to track their time from any location through the desktop app, a web browser, and the mobile app for iOS or Android.

If you need more oversight and visibility into where your remote teams are during the workday, you can use Clockify's GPS tracking to pinpoint where they are clocking in and out. Your employees can start and stop software timers from their devices to record when they are working, and they have the unique option to track their time automatically when they open specific browsers. You can use job tracking to identify how much time is spent on specific projects or jobs, and employees have the option to enter the time they spent on each project or task manually.

One great, unique feature of Clockify is its visual dashboard. You can get a holistic view of employee and team activity, including details like what each team worked on and where they spent most of their time. You can even get a live status view of each employee's current task, as well as details about their clocked-in status. You can also view employee data in a series of reports.

Read Clockify Review

Quickbooks Time: Best Time and Attendance System for Businesses With a Mobile Workforce

QuickBooks Time uses geotechnology to track mobile workers throughout their shifts.
There are various ways workers can track their time.
It charges a monthly base fee, unlike many of its competitors.

QuickBooks Time is the best time and attendance solution for businesses with mobile workforces (e.g., remote, offsite, and field service workers). In addition, businesses with on-the-go employees want a time and attendance system that makes it easy for those workers to record their time worked outside of the office. Because QuickBooks Time is a cloud-based platform, employees can use its web browser or mobile app to clock in and out, view schedule changes, and request PTO.

Businesses with remote workers need a system that allows them to keep tabs on those employees to ensure they are working from where they should be. QuickBooks lets you do this by using live GPS tracking. You can also set geofence boundaries so employees can only clock in and out from designated areas.

QuickBooks also gives managers the flexibility to build employee schedules by jobs or shifts, which they can then share with employees to keep everyone on the same page. They can use QuickBooks to approve or deny PTO requests, send reminders to clock in or out, and change job codes. QuickBooks also offers more extensive job-tracking capabilities than most of its competitors do. You can track project progress, view project estimates against actual costs, communicate through job and project notes, and track job mileage and expenses.

QuickBooks Time can integrate with third-party applications, so you can seamlessly transfer employee time-tracking data to your accounting and payroll software.

Read Quickbooks Time Review

OnTheClock: Best Time and Attendance System for Smaller Growing Businesses

This service is free for the first two employees and $3 or less per additional employee.
OnTheClock can easily scale as your business grows.
Phone support is not available on the weekend.

OnTheClock is an ideal time and attendance system for smaller growing businesses, because it includes solid features for a low price and can support your business as it grows. It is easily one of the least expensive time and attendance platforms we evaluated, ranging from $2.70 to $3 per employee per month. It is also one of the only time and attendance systems that has a free plan for up to two employees and a 30-day free trial. Even though it comes at a low cost, it has a lot of useful time and attendance features.

OnTheClock offers a drag-and-drop scheduling feature that makes it easy to use. Employees can clock in and out by several methods, including via computer, tablet, mobile app, fingerprint or kiosk. Managers get a live view of which employees are clocked in and out, and they can manually punch in and out for employees if needed.

You can set PTO policies for hourly and salaried employees within the software, and employees can submit PTO requests and view their status. OnTheClock integrates with various payroll providers, and you can view reports grouped and sorted by customers, job projects and tasks. Alerts, reminders and support are also available. Although most of the features OnTheClock offers are standard for the industry, it offers them at one of the lowest costs.

Read OnTheClock Review

TimeClick: Best Time and Attendance System for In-Office Teams

You pay a one-time license fee rather than monthly fees.
TimeClick lets you quickly add a holiday, bereavement leave, and other custom time-off policies to entire teams with mass time entries.
The license includes only one year of support.

TimeClick is the only on-premises time and attendance solution we reviewed, which makes it best suited for businesses that operate in a traditional office setting. Unlike cloud-hosted systems that have monthly fees, TimeClick only charges a one-time licensing fee. Additionally, instead of being charged on a per-employee basis, you are charged on a per-device basis. You could save money with this model if you have an in-office team of employees who hot-desk or share office devices. If you have multiple offices, TimeClick explains how you can set up a solution to support them all.

The software allows you to track when employees start and end their shifts by requiring passwords for time punches. You can easily modify clock records, implement mass time entries, track paid and unpaid breaks, and automatically deduct lunch hours. If your staff has designated times they need to be in the office, you can access features that prevent them from clocking in outside their scheduled start times. You can also configure PTO rules and manager requests. TimeClick integrates with payroll software and offers custom reports.

Read TimeClick Review

Rippling Time and Attendance: Best Time and Attendance System for Ease of Use

Rippling takes less than four weeks to implement.
It integrates with more than 400 applications.
You pay an additional monthly base fee for the HR help desk.

Rippling's time and attendance system, part of its employee management platform, gives employees the flexibility to clock in and out via tablet kiosks, mobile apps or computers. The system uses geolocation technology and photo clock-in and clock-out requirements, which you can use to prevent buddy punching and employees clocking in and out from locations where they shouldn't be. It even offers QR code punch-ins, which few competitors offer and can be especially great for mobile users.

Rippling is one of the only time and attendance systems we reviewed that can fully integrate with its own in-house payroll solution. This feature ensures that any approved time within the system automatically syncs into the payroll system, eliminating the potential for human error in the process.

Employees can submit PTO requests, which Rippling automatically sends to a manager for approval. Automated processes like this prevent lost or missed time and attendance data. You can easily create companywide holiday or time-off policies and automatically apply them to every employee.

You can also customize rules and logic for time tracking with automated workflows. Rippling can send you triggered alerts if an employee requests overtime, misses a break or submits unapproved hours. This makes it easy to track employee attendance and maintain legal compliance.

Read Rippling Time and Attendance Review

Paychex Flex Time and Attendance: Best Time and Attendance System for an All-in-One HR Solution

Paychex users can access one integrated solution with time and attendance software, payroll, and other HR functions.
Employees can access self-service features to manage their timecards, work schedules, time-off balances and pay adjustments.
Paychex does not list time and attendance pricing on its website.

In addition to offering core time and attendance capabilities, Paychex Flex is one of the only companies we reviewed that offers comprehensive HR solutions, including payroll administration, hiring and onboarding services, employee benefits administration, business insurance, and compliance assistance. In other words, Paychex Flex is an ideal option for those who need an all-in-one solution that does it all – including tracking time and attendance. The Paychex time and attendance software is cloud-based, and it offers more punch-in options than most competitors, like the tablet kiosk app (with optional facial verification), iOS and Android mobile apps, a web app, and biometric time clocks.

Paychex time and attendance solutions offer various features to help keep your employees' time data accurate and compliant with labor laws. For example, you can take advantage of tools for IP user restrictions, PTO management, leave tracking and pay adjustments. You can access a visual scheduler and templates to schedule employees easily, and employees can use the platform to swap shifts if needed. If you have a remote or mobile workforce, you can take advantage of geolocation and geofencing technology to ensure your staff is where they need to be during work hours.

Paychex lets you manage your finances through features like job costing and timecard approvals, and you can gain easy access to real-time data, analytics, and reports. Because Paychex is in the unique position of offering so many other HR solutions as well, you can rest assured that all of your employee data can transfer seamlessly throughout the platform.

Read Paychex Flex Time and Attendance Review

Buddy Punch: Best Time and Attendance System for Policy Compliance Management

Buddy Punch lets you assign specific IP addresses to each employee.
Buddy Punch offers GPS and image tracking.
Pricing is based on ranges of employees (e.g., 1-4 employees) instead of per-employee fees.

Buddy Punch has several time and attendance features that can help businesses maintain compliance with their internal policies as well as employment and labor laws. For example, it offers automatic overtime calculations for proper payment, automatic breaks and clock-outs, and webcam photos on punches. These features help reduce buddy punching and ensure accurate time records and payment.

You can make sure your team is clocking in or out according to your policies by limiting punches to specific times of the day or scheduled shifts. You also have the unique ability to lock certain devices and IP addresses. If you have a mobile workforce, you can make sure they are clocking in and out from the appropriate locations using GPS tracking and geofencing capabilities.

Buddy Punch helps streamline time and attendance data with functions like approval workflows and manager permissions. It can also integrate with accounting and payroll platforms, which can simplify these functions and eliminate administrative errors. If you need to view time and attendance data, Buddy Punch offers a variety of on-demand reports. The software also has alert, reminder, and notification abilities to keep you up to date on your employees' attendance.

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PurelyHR: Best Time and Attendance System for Customization

PurelyHR offers a base plan with several add-on features available.
PurelyHR is easy to implement, and there are no setup fees.
There is no mobile app available.

PurelyHR is great for businesses that want to customize their time and attendance software plan, especially technology, education, healthcare, professional services, manufacturing, construction and nonprofit companies. Most competitors offer one or two time and attendance plan options, but PurelyHR offers one base plan with several add-on options, allowing you to create a custom plan. For example, you can add time-off features, performance management, time clock functions, timesheets, policy violation warnings and talent management. This model is ideal for businesses that only need a couple of these features and don't want to pay for a bundled solution full of features they won't use.

PurelyHR offers features such as IP restrictions, timecard submission reminders and custom reports. You can comment on timecard punches, set rounding rules and view shared leave calendars. You can also add PTO management features, like custom PTO policy creation, PTO requests and approvals, custom accrual and renewal policy creation, and unlimited time-off types. With certain add-ons, you can create custom timesheet periods, choose approval paths, and assign tasks to employees. Creating a time and attendance plan with any or all of these features is simple, and the implementation can take as little as two hours.

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Cost of Time and Attendance Software

There are two common pricing models for time and attendance software: cloud subscriptions and on-premises licenses. You typically pay a monthly fee for cloud-hosted subscription services based on how many employees (or users) you have. Some time and attendance solutions are on-premises systems that you download and store on your computer; for those systems, you generally pay a one-time licensing fee.

Cloud-hosted time and attendance software typically costs $2 to $10 per month for each employee. Some providers also charge a monthly base fee. Other add-on charges may include fees for installation or setup. Support fees are typically included in your monthly subscription price.

If you choose a timekeeping system that you download to a computer and host on your network, your costs will range from $100 to $400 per license. Plus, you'll have to purchase computers and, in some cases, a physical time clock. In general, you'll also have to pay an annual fee if you need technical support after your installation period ends.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: Cloud-hosted time and attendance systems typically cost $2 to $10 per employee per month, and on-premises systems cost $100 to $400 per license.

Time and Attendance Features

Time and attendance systems replace outdated wall-mounted time clocks, paper timesheets, and confusing spreadsheets. They provide an easy, accurate way for employees to clock in and out. All time and attendance systems offer configurable timesheet reports that you can export to your payroll system, and most include useful features such as workflow automations, team communications, and reminders.

Here is a rundown of the many features time and attendance systems offer:

  • Time reporting: Modern timekeeping systems can interface with existing time clocks, or you can let employees clock in and out through a web browser or mobile app. Some systems let workers clock in and out by phone, or even via Apple Watch, social media, text message, or Slack. Most let you set up rules for when employees can clock in and out, and automatically calculate overtime. Some simplify time tracking for teams that work the same hours.

  • Biometrics: To prevent buddy punching, some time and attendance systems require workers to input a code, badge, fingerprint or photo when they clock in or out. This system confirms that you pay only for time your employees worked and that you're paying each worker correctly.

  • GPS tracking: In addition to letting employees clock in and out from their mobile devices, many time and attendance apps include geotechnology. For example, geofencing lets you set specific coordinates from which your employees can punch in and out, ensuring that each employee is at the job site when they sign in. Another option is geolocation, which periodically records an employee's GPS coordinates or when an employee punches in or out. You can review those coordinates to make sure the employee was where they were supposed to be throughout the day.

  • Employee scheduling: Many time and attendance systems have built-in scheduling tools. You can create employee schedules for workdays, hours, appointments and shifts. Many also include drag-and-drop functions and scheduling templates that you can reuse from week to week.
  • PTO management: Most time and attendance systems allow you to log accruals for sick time, vacation time, and other types of paid and unpaid time off, like FMLA, jury duty, and bereavement. Most also let employees request time off directly within the software, and managers can either approve or deny those requests.

  • Calendars: Some software comes with calendar functions that allow your employees to visualize their tasks and locations for each day. You can also sync your time and attendance software with third-party calendars, like Outlook or Google Calendar, to keep all your meetings, projects and jobs on one platform.

  • Messaging: Many solutions come with messaging features that allow your employees and managers to communicate directly within the platform. These messaging features are often user-friendly, and they give your team an easy way to stay in touch on important topics regarding time and attendance.
  • Job and project tracking: Some systems log employee time on a specific project or task. This is a valuable tool for businesses that bill clients for their employees' time spent on project work and client tasks.

  • Invoicing: While this is less common, some time and attendance systems give you the ability to issue invoices. After the software tracks how much time your employees spend on a project, they can combine that with your hourly rates to automatically issue accurate invoices to your clients.

  • Alerts: Some time and attendance systems can notify you when your employees have clocked in or out for the day. They can also remind employees to clock out and let you know when an employee is about to work overtime.

  • Labor reports: Most systems provide reports detailing workers' hours, wages, and schedules, and some offer advanced reports, like labor costing.

  • Integrations: Most time and attendance systems integrate with your payroll service via CSV or a software interface. These integrations save time when you run payroll by ensuring that overtime calculations and time-off deductions are correct in your payroll system. Some providers even offer payroll processing as a service within their platforms so that you can double up on your HR functions.

  • Dashboard: Some systems include a digital dashboard that gives you an overview of which employees are punched in and out. Employees can access a self-service dashboard that lets them manage their time and attendance data from a web browser or mobile device.

  • Configurations: Most time and attendance software enables you to set up your own scheduling rules, swap shifts, round up time and pay for breaks.

TipTip: Before comparing time and attendance systems, identify which features you need. Some companies offer all these features bundled together, whereas others offer them on an a la carte basis.

Benefits of Time and Attendance Systems

A timekeeping system, if set up and used properly, will save your business money. When you use time and attendance software, your employees can no longer round up the hours they've worked or punch in for their friends; instead, the software documents their work hours. Most timekeeping tools also include scheduling software so you can determine exactly when you want employees to work.

Here are some other benefits of using time and attendance software:

1. It helps ensure accuracy and compliance.

A time and attendance system eliminates manual recordkeeping, which reduces errors. In addition, you can more easily demonstrate your business's compliance with overtime tracking rules and other labor laws.

2. It saves your HR staff time.

Time and attendance software saves your managers and HR staff time they would have otherwise spent tallying employees' work hours and transferring the information to a payroll software program. This frees up your back-office team and supervisors to focus on other business tasks.

Did you know?Did you know? It can take up to six or seven minutes to add up each employee's timecard.

3. It gives your employees scheduling and attendance insights.

Time and attendance systems benefit employees who can see their work schedules in advance; they'll recognize they're being paid for all of their time worked. Most time and attendance systems are easy to use, as employees clock in using their computer or mobile device. These systems also show employees details like their total hours worked, weekly schedules, and time-off accruals and requests.

Time and Attendance FAQs

Do you need new time and attendance software?

If you are still using paper timesheets or a traditional punch clock, your business will benefit from a digital time and attendance system. First off, it reduces the chances of time-related errors in your payroll. Most of these systems integrate with payroll by uploading the timesheet data into your payroll program. No one has to manually calculate time punches and reenter them into the payroll software – a process that's more likely to result in errors.

Time and attendance systems allow businesses to create electronic schedules, manage PTO, and store employees' schedules, work hours, break time, time off, overtime, and paid hours in one place. That means you'll no longer need to dig for data in paper files when an employee or your payroll provider has a question.

How can time and attendance software save you money?

You may pay $2 to $10 per employee per month for a time and attendance system, but the savings you get in return can far outweigh the cost.

Businesses can save money with a digital time and attendance system by eliminating inaccurate clock-in and clock-out times. For example, with manual timekeeping, an employee might round up their clock-out time from 4:50 to 5 p.m., or round down their lunch break from 40 minutes to 30. Time and attendance systems eliminate this type of punch rounding and ensure that employees are paid only for when they actually work.

Time and attendance software also saves you money by:

  • Reducing the paid hours that managers, admins or HR staff spend on gathering and calculating timecards
  • Decreasing manual data entry errors that result in time spent fixing payments
  • Reducing the risk of labor-law fines and back pay, which are common when employee time isn't calculated and paid correctly

What should you expect time and attendance systems to do?

You should expect your time and attendance system to handle all your hourly and salaried employees' time-tracking needs, including overtime.

At the very least, look for a timekeeping solution that offers multiple ways to clock in and out, gives remote workers the ability to punch in and out from wherever they are, and integrates with the payroll software you use. Other useful features include the ability to generate and assign employee schedules, manage PTO tracking and approvals, log how long employees work on specific projects, and monitor where your remote employees are clocking in and out from each day.

How does an employee time clock work?

An employee time clock provides a record of when an employee works. With traditional punch clocks, an employee inserts a paper timecard into the machine, which records on the card what time the employee clocked in or out.

Digital time clocks (computers, kiosks and mobile devices) record the clock-in and clock-out times directly in the time and attendance software, using a secure method to avoid time theft. Examples are a login ID, PIN, swipe card or biometrics (such as fingerprint, photo or facial scans).

How does employee time tracking integrate with payroll and HR?

Employee time tracking is an input for payroll, especially for employees who are paid by the hour. To pay your workers properly, you need to know how many hours they work each day, week and pay period.

The best time and attendance systems integrate with your payroll and HR software, either by uploading a CSV file or automatically transferring timesheet data through a digital interface. This process saves time and cuts down on errors in transferring work hours from one program to another.

Why is it important to clock in and out at work?

The biggest benefit of employees clocking in and out is ensuring that you pay employees for all hours they work, in compliance with federal and state labor laws. Similarly, you don't want to pay employees for time they aren't working. A digital time and attendance system gives employers precise details on when employees are working and when they aren't.

Biometric time clocks, which make employees punch in and out with a fingerprint or retinal scan, also prevent buddy punching. In other words, they ensure employees clock in themselves rather than having someone else do it for them. If not curbed, buddy punching can cost your business money and reduce productivity and morale.

Accurate timekeeping also gives employers a better handle on staffing needs. With time and attendance software, you can compare employees' schedules with the busiest days and times for your business and adjust staffing levels accordingly.

How are time and attendance managed with a PEO?

As a co-employer, a professional employer organization (PEO) will require you to manage employee time and attendance according to labor laws. Therefore, they'll likely provide a time and attendance app that lives on the same platform as other HR functions, like payroll and benefits administration.

For example, when an employee records their time for the day, that data automatically populates in the software, saving you from duplicate data entry that could lead to payroll errors.

Why is it important to document employee time and attendance?

A time and attendance system can save your business money, improve team productivity, and aid in legal compliance, because the time records serve as a legal document and must be kept for a minimum of two years in most states.

An accurate log of when employees are – and aren't – working ensures that each staff member is onsite when they're supposed to be and being paid only for the hours they work. In addition, having a record of the hours that employees have worked helps employers optimize their staffing levels so they are not under- or overstaffed. This is especially important for service businesses like restaurants and retailers.

Time and attendance reports can also serve as proof that your business is following the appropriate employment and labor laws – for example, adhering to youth attendance laws, paying overtime, and tracking mandatory paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.

What is a reasonable attendance policy?

Some organizations need strict attendance policies to function properly, while others may offer flexible work schedules. Most employers require workers to call in when they are going to be late or miss work. Many document each tardy occurrence, and some terminate employees who fail to show up for work after one, two or three days.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker misses almost three days per year. In some industries, such as service occupations, the absence rate is higher. When drafting your company's attendance policy, consider your industry and your company culture as well as the demands of the business.

For example, one employer may find it acceptable for an office worker to be 30 minutes late to their shift because their work schedule is flexible. On the other hand, a manufacturer or retailer may not tolerate such tardiness or an unauthorized absence because it may affect the business's ability to function.

Once you've created your company's attendance policy, you should meet with your employees to review the policy and ensure they understand what is expected of them.

What to Expect in 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI) will integrate further with time and attendance systems in 2021, collecting and analyzing employee data to provide information to employers to assist them with staffing, scheduling and other labor needs. 

Employers can also expect more self-service capabilities. With so many working remotely now, companies are looking for tools that allow employees to access their work schedules and accurately self-record the hours they work, paid time off and sick leave. In industries with unpredictable or continuously changing schedules, employees especially need systems that provide timely alerts.

The increased use of chatbots, which are powered by AI, will further streamline the time management process for employers and employees. Instead of employees turning to their managers or HR with questions about their timesheets or time-off requests, they'll be able to ask and get instant answers from their time and attendance systems' built-in chatbots. 

Current coronavirus precautionary measures are also affecting HR procedures and how time and attendance systems are used, specifically clocking in and out. The New York Police Department has banned biometric timeclocks as a precaution to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among its ranks.

As the virus continues to spread, and until a vaccine is more widely available, it's expected that businesses worldwide will follow suit and use other options for clocking in and out, like facial recognition or contactless scanners. It is still not yet known whether or not businesses will revert to using these types of timeclocks as the threat of coronavirus subsides.

Another trend shaping time and attendance solutions is the gig economy. This fast-growing set of workers is governed by a different set of laws and regulations than permanent employees. Employers must pay attention to how these regulations evolve so they can accurately track hours worked and pay freelance workers.

Skye Schooley
Skye Schooley
Business News Daily Staff
Skye Schooley is a staff writer at business.com and Business News Daily, where she has written more than 200 articles on B2B-focused topics including human resources operations, management leadership, and business technology. In addition to researching and analyzing products that help business owners launch and grow their business, Skye writes on topics aimed at building better professional culture, like protecting employee privacy, managing human capital, improving communication, and fostering workplace diversity and culture.
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