Time theft in the workplace

6 ways to prevent time theft in the workplace

Time theft is becoming increasingly common in businesses. Time stealing is a problem for many modern firms, especially for those that rely largely on remote employees who work from home without supervision. Workplace time theft is a prevalent and costly issue that occurs when an employee is paid for time they did not work.

Employee time theft is a problem that many firms face and that can go unnoticed. Many bosses are unaware that their workers have been stealing time for years. Your organization can suffer huge losses due to time theft if it does not reliably track time. Although no one enjoys disciplinary action meetings, as long as time theft occurs, your paper timesheets are not representative of your productivity.

What is workplace time theft?

Time clock fraud, time stealing, and timesheet fraud are all terms used to describe time

theft in the workplace. Time theft occurs when an employee is paid for work they did not do. Fortunately, modern time clock software exists to prevent time theft in the workplace.

Employee time theft can take numerous forms, which makes it difficult to quantify. It could happen in one of the following ways: Long breaks, early starts, late endings, on-the-job personal activities, timesheet rounding, and so forth. These types of time theft may seem inoffensive, but at the end of the business year, it can amount to a substantial amount. Plus, if one person is doing it, other employees may be inflating their hours worked as well.

Employers have had a difficult time detecting and preventing time fraud in the context of the pandemic. Remote working is often brandished as the new work paradigm, but it comes with new problems. Remote employees can take extended smoke breaks or lunch breaks on the dime of their employers if there are no strategies put in place to control clock theft.

What is time theft at work?

Types of Time Theft

Here are various ways time clock theft can take place:

  • Timesheet fraud
  • Buddy punching
  • Unauthorized breaks
  • Personal activities on company time

Timesheet Fraud

Falsification of a time card happens when one employee gives false information regarding their hours worked or causes others to do so. This is most common with manual timekeeping systems.

Buddy Punching

Buddy punching occurs when an employee clocks in or out for a coworker. Time theft buddy punching is estimated to cost over $370 million in payroll expenditures each year, according to a 2018 study (source). Committing time theft is fraudulent and should call for disciplinary action.

Unauthorized Breaks

Employees are entitled to rest periods, as they are a legal requirement. There is, however, room for abuse. Lunch breaks are frequently extended by 15 minutes here and there, while smoke breaks are taken whenever employees please. At the end of the business year, some employees could have received a week’s worth of salary in leisure time at work.

Personal Activities on Company Time

You may come across employees that have no qualms about engaging in personal activities while on the clock. They operate their side business while on the clock or tend to excessively socialize with coworkers. An employee that commits this type of time theft may run errands while on the job or play games on work computers.

On-the-clock phone calls are unavoidable, but when this occurs regularly, it is considered time stealing. Smartphones are the gadget of our century, and just as they are essential, they can be a real nuisance in the workplace. According to a study by Udemy, 62 % of those polled spend at least an hour of their workday gazing at their mobile devices (source).

6 Ways to Prevent Time Theft in the Workplace

Here are 6 ways to prevent time theft in the workplace:

  1. Use a time clock software
  2. Build employee morale
  3. Time tracking policy in the employee handbook
  4. Follow through with disciplinary actions
  5. Host regular meetings
  6. Be understanding


1. Use a Time Clock Software

Integrating a time clock software to your organization is one of the simplest and most effective ways of stopping time theft. With time monitoring software, you can track the worked hours of your employees and collect insightful data. Mobile-Punch is a time tracking app suitable for remote teams. It tracks the total time employees spend at work or on a job on the road.

Mobile-Punch’s integrated timesheet calculator is a key tool for any company that wants to optimize how they keep track of hours worked. Calculating work hours has never been easier than with Mobile-Punch! Whether it’s for in-house employees, internal or external overtime, or subcontractors who need to calculate their work hours, Mobile-Punch allows thousands of companies to save time and money.

Our app is the most widely used time management solution in Canada for companies with mobile teams. The application is also very popular in several other countries since it offers personalized functions, adapted to the different types of businesses and needs of each.

2. Build Employee Morale

Investing in employee morale is the most effective approach to deter time theft. Employees are more engaged and productive when there is a high level of morale in the workplace. Something as simple as Pizza Thursday can make your place of work more convivial and create a link of proximity between management and workers.

Another thing to consider is if employees are receiving an amount that is worth their labor. Time clock theft is often the result of employees reasoning that they are taking their due given their meager wage. Business owners can reduce time theft considerably by demonstrating that they value the work of their employees.

3. Time Tracking Policy in Employee Handbook

Assumptions in the place of work are often the source of time theft. If an employee sees another coworker round their hours worked on the paper timesheet, they’ll certainly do the same for themselves. The modality of how a business tracks time must be communicated and standardized as not to create loopholes for some to exploit.

Include these regulations in your employee handbook right away, and hold workers accountable when they deviate from the rules. All hourly and salaried employees must read and sign a paper declaring that they have read and comprehended the handbook’s policies. The employee handbook will also dictate to management the disciplinary action that must be executed if someone commits time theft.

4. Follow Through with Disciplinary Action

This may not be the most joyous way to spend time at work, but disciplinary action must be taken on employees who do not abide by the employee handbook’s policies in regards to time tracking. When clear proofs report time theft, an example must be made of what happens when someone conscientiously tries to inflate their worked hours. Of course, there should be different degrees of severity depending on the scenario.

5. Host Regular Meetings

Communication is key to any business that desires to flourish. Regular meetings can create the perfect platform for team building and let employees be informed about their obligations and expectations. This means that if anyone commits time clock fraud, the whole group can be notified to reinforce the fact that it’s an act of deviance that affects employee bonuses or work relations.

Regular meetings are great to set an environment of accountability in the place of work. This is done by praising innovative ideas and discussing why certain practices are counter-productive. These regular meetings then become a place to learn from mistakes and to reward good working initiatives.

6. Be Understanding

Employers should recognize that everyone needs a break now and then. Your team will work more efficiently and successfully if they take breaks and rest without stressing about the time ticking. Time can easily be managed at work, especially with Mobile-Punch, but respect can go a long way to prevent employee time theft.

If you catch an employee inflating their worked hours, have a chat with them to see if they would like more hours or if they are facing financial difficulty. Instead of seeing you as business owners, try making your employees see you as their ally. That will deter many from doing things behind your back, and employees will prove to be more loyal.

End Time Theft Now!

Mobile-Punch is the modern way of time tracking worked hours. Since the application can be accessed on mobile devices, remote workers can be held accountable for their day of work. Additionally, when clocking in a job, it is possible to have the geolocation of the worker in question. Therefore, you will know whether they began their day of work at your client’s place or while stuck in traffic.

Determine the sources of time theft and take steps to prevent it with Mobile-Punch.

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