Guest Blog: Employee Time Theft - The Invisible Crime

February 27, 2014

Employee time theft – the act of doing personal rather than work-related activities while on the clock – severely impacts a company’s productiveness. While short bouts of personal activity during work hours may actually lead to higher overall productivity, there is a distinct line between what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for employees to do when they are clocked in. But, how can you accurately monitor and manage what employees are doing during their paid work hours and ensure that they are not stealing time?

Great strides have actually been made to help businesses address this issue and better manage employee time and attendance. However, in today’s technologically-advanced age, employers face a different set of challenges when it comes to controlling employee time theft. Remote workforces including telecommuters and mobile service employees demand a new level of supervision in order for employers to eliminate time theft and monitor employee activity during paid work hours. Of course, before one can address time theft, it’s important to know what time theft looks like. Below are some of the most common forms.

Time Card Theft
This type of time theft can occur in a number of ways. For example, one employee can punch in or out for another employee who is not actually on site (often called Buddy Punching). This usually happens if one friend is running late or leaving early. Misrepresenting the actual amount of time worked on a single shift or in a single day (e.g., lying or fudging time, rounding up minutes, etc.) is another form of time card fraud. Biometric-enabled time stamp devices, such as facial recognition or fingerprint time clocks, are the best way to eliminate buddy punching and time card theft.

Break Time Theft
One of the most commonly reported abuses of time is when employees extend their given work breaks. This includes an employee leaving early for a break and/or returning late. It could also be an employee taking more than the allotted number of breaks in a given shift. Regardless of the route, extended breaks can take a toll on employee productivity, employee morale and ultimately the employer’s bottom line. An automated employee management system (e.g., online attendance software or cloud-based time tracking solutions) can effectively monitor employees’ time and attendance and help put an end to break time theft.

Personal Time
Excessive personal phone calls or non-work related email activities can also be considered time theft. Although, since it is often allowed and sometimes even necessary for employees to address personal situations from work, it can be difficult for an employer to determine what is considered “excessive”. The parameters of personal time should be incorporated as company policy and explained clearly to employees to help prevent any questionable situations. Employers should also be sure to take correctable action quickly and consistently if and when instances happen to prevent abuse of the policy.

Internet Time Theft
Internet usage is another common form of time theft; unfortunately, it is also one of the most difficult forms to detect. For many businesses, it can be hard to distinguish the use of technology for personal reasons from work-related reasons. Browsing the Internet, visiting personal social networking sites, ordering personal items online or paying personal bills online can all constitute time theft. However, since many companies recognize that social networking can be a valuable marketing tool, it is sometimes tricky for employers to truly determine if Internet time theft is happening. One of the best ways to help reduce and prevent Internet time theft is for employers to develop and enforce policies to directly address the issue, and monitor usage accordingly.

For more tips on how to prevent time theft in the workplace, visit our time and attendance blog at

Article courtesy of Processing Point.