How to make an entry level time clock system work for you

If you really must buy an entry level product...

Jim Courtwood
Author of the Time & Attendance Consultant's Guide Series.

It is understandable that many small companies are focused on minimizing the costs of running their businesses.

Unfortunately this can result in the purchase of a business system which falls well short of expectations and fails to deliver any systems improvement.

When it comes to time and attendance systems the difficulty stems form the broad range of ways in which attendance rules are applied.  In effect all businesses are unique in the way they apply employee attendance and payroll rules. Unique, but not always correct I might add.

In extreme cases some companies use such unconventional payroll practices that the introduction of a new attendance system forces them to reconsider their approach.  A good example of this the relatively common practice of paying employees for their normal time in one pay period and their overtime in another pay period. This practice generally stems from the payroll period requiring completion before overtime records are submitted.

In the case above it is simply impractical ( or very costly) to transfer this practice into an electronic automated system so companies bite the bullet and make the necessary change.

In most cases, it is the application of rounding rules and grace times that are applied on a business level rather that the actual award which cause the entry level time and attendance software to fall short of the mark. While a review of the attendance rules could fix this problem employers are reluctant to make changes to entrenched practices.

What I would propose is that you take the opportunity to standardize the way you round employee clockings so it fits with the capabilities of the average off the shelf entry level attendance system. If you have other unusual attendance or payroll practices then perhaps they could also be reviewed at the same time.

That may sound a little daunting at first and the immediate reaction may be that either the employee or the company may be disadvantaged if there are any changes to the current calculation methods. However,  is likely that your current rules are skirting the edges of workplace legislation anyway so a review may be a good idea.

Having made that sweeping statement regarding skirting the edges it is worth clarifying what I mean by that. According to the Fairwork Ombudsman, unless your award or workplace agreement specifically states otherwise, then an employee must be paid for all hours they work. This means, in broad terms , that you cannot deduct more time from an employees hours than they were short for the day.

So, if you are using perhaps "rounding to the nearest 15 minutes"  it is quite possible that your are unfairly disadvantaging your employees and that alone is a good enough reason to review your practices to match the capabilities of the standard entry level attendance systems - this way you are more likely to achieve a high degree of automation and accuracy.

If we consider your accounting system as another important business tool it is the standardization of practices that make the system manageable and accurate. Indeed the application of standards which makes all systems work well particularly those which are dependent in some way on external systems.

Having a system in your shipping software which uses the imperial weights systems would be impractical given all freight companies use the metric systems. Similarly, having employee attendance rules which did not match the capabilities of your attendance system can be unworkable or, will at the very least necessitate a much more advanced ( and costly ) attendance system.

So, in summary, if you have a small business in particular,  bite the bullet and review your attendance rules to fit with both workplace legislation and the less costly low end time and attendance software.


Jim Courtwood

Time & Attendance Consultant

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