What is Buddy Punching?

Buddy punching is when a team member asks a co-worker to clock in on their behalf. For example, if a team member is running late, they may ask a co-worker to clock in for them, so they can get paid for the entire shift.

While buddy punching helps workers who are late get paid, it is harmful to workplace culture as it does not promote good behavior or equality. Team members that arrive on time are not noted for their behavior, while team members who are late get away with time theft. Eliminating buddy punching sets a higher standard for workplace behavior and promotes fairness for employees that arrive on time.

Buddy punching is a source of time theft in which employees get paid for more time than they have worked. To avoid buddy punching, consider using a digital time clock or an employee scheduling software that requires ID when clocking in.

Is Buddy Punching illegal?

Buddy Punching in secretBuddy punching is often overlooked, but in most cases, it constitutes fraud and grounds for termination. Many companies have a policy with clear rules around time tracking, including buddy punching. Staff may be unaware of the consequences of buddy punching and participate to help a colleague out. The easiest way to create a fair time tracking system is with a digital time clock for accurate attendances. This promotes better employee performance in a painless way.

Factors that increase incidents of Buddy Punching

  • No clear company policy
    Let your employees know that you take time theft and buddy punching seriously. It is not just a cost to your business but also team morale when employees get away with buddy punching make the same amount as those who diligently show up on time. When employees are late, their co-workers must take on the burden of extra work. To improve your company culture, you must update your company policy and let your team know buddy punching is not permitted. 
  • Manual sign-in process
    If your clock-in system is from the middle ages, that makes it very easy for team members to get away with buddy punching. You can easily fix this problem by replacing your current clocking system with a digital time clock. Using a digital clock-in system is a painless and easy way to eliminate buddy punching without long lectures to the team or constant surveillance. Premium scheduling platforms like Hyre offer digital clocks to make every shift seamless for managers and workers. 
  • Lack of work-life balance
    When your team is overworked, it is harder for them to show up on time. For example, if team members are working both closing and opening shifts without adequate time to rest in between, they may sleep in. Night shift workers in particular are more prone to shift work sleeping disorder that results in fatigue and lack of concentration. Consider the wellness of your employees and ask for feedback. If you are understaffed, consider hiring qualified temp staff with Hyre to ease the load. 
  • Underpaid or unhappy staff 

    Team members may feel they are entitled to more pay and use buddy punching for more compensation. If your employees are not satisfied, that also increases the use of buddy punching. A leading cause of unhappy staff are problems with communication and work flexibility. Examples include lack of communication around schedules, not accounting for staff availability, calling in staff to work last minute, and inaccurate or late payments. To streamline communication and avoid these problems, use Hyre’s free shift scheduling software, designed by shift managers for shift managers.

How does Buddy Punching Affect Your Workplace?

Workplace buddy punchingTeams need both positive and negative feedback to enhance their performance! It is unfair for employees to get away with buddy punching while others arrive on time. Of course, life happens, but if employee absenteeism is common it needs to be addressed. Buddy punching correlates with the following problems in your workplace.

  • Lack of communication
    Perhaps there is a reason employees feel they cannot tell you when they are running late. Ask yourself if your workplace culture allows for open communication and vulnerability. For example, if the schedule a manager creates is extremely inconvenient for an employee, can they voice it? If there is a fear of management, employees facing genuine problems may refrain from sharing it, even if addressing it would improve their performance and team culture. 
  • Buddy punching culture
    New team members may see seasoned workers participating in buddy punching, and think it is the norm. When there is no feedback around time theft, team members will feel that it is acceptable to continue. Without clear expectations, this may result in slacking in other areas of their role. To avoid this, ensure your managers are giving feedback around tardiness and have technology in place to stop this. 
  • Low morale for high performing staff
    Buddy punching is a form of employee absenteeism, which is the repeated absence of an employee while they are technically clocked in. When employees are not present during their shift, their co-workers need to pick up their slack and do extra work. This is unfair for employees with stronger performance, especially when they are compensated the same amount. Lack of equal treatment and fairness in the workplace is a cause for employee turnover. 
  • Extra Business Cost
    It’s not just the act of buddy punching that is costing your business money with time theft. When other employees are expected to carry the burden of those absent, this unfairness decreases employee satisfaction and increases the turnover of good employees. Recruiting and hiring new team members to replace those that leave costs time and money. You can calculate the cost of your turnover rate here and learn more about why tracking the employee turnover rate is important.

How can you prevent Buddy Punching?

Prevent buddy punchingThere is a hard way and an easy way to prevent buddy punching. Traditionally, companies may require managers to physically monitor team members clocking in, which is time-consuming and not always feasible. Creating clear company policy and reminding team members regularly can help as well, but it is not foolproof. The easiest way to prevent buddy punching is through the use of technology. Using a digital time clock eliminates the need to monitor team members for accurate time tracking. They can use their phones to sign in and no one can buddy punch for them. Watch your team’s performance improve, and keep track of your team’s reliability.

Buddy Punching Scenarios: Employee and Manager POV

(Employee POV)

  • Benny works at Big Belly Burrito, and he has been assigned back-to-back closing and opening shifts. He shows up on time for his evening closing shifts but he is buddy punching for his morning opening shifts. Big Belly Burrito closes at 2 am but he stays to clean up until 2:30 am or later. He lives half an hour away so the earliest he gets home is 3 am. The next day, he is scheduled to get to work at 8 am to open the kitchen so they can prepare breakfast delivery orders. That means he has to wake up at 7:30 am latest to get to work on time. Benny relies on his co-worker Cynthia to sign him in the next morning because he is often 20-30 minutes late.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    If Benny is getting home at 3 am and needs to wake up at 7:30 am, he is only getting 4.5 hours of sleep. Benny and his manager need to create a schedule that supports employee wellness and avoids back-to-back closing and opening shifts. Although careful surveillance or a digital time clock can prevent buddy punching, in this case, it is harmful to Benny’s work-life balance to continue with this schedule. If he is too tired, it will affect his performance and workplace morale, increasing employee turnover. 
  • Selena just started working at Shifty Showhouse as a greeter. Her shift starts at 5 pm, 30 minutes before doors open for guests in case there is extra setup needed. She notices some senior co-workers only show up 10 to 15 minutes before doors. Her manager is rarely there on time either, and everyone just signs their clock-in time as 5 pm. After a few weeks, Selena begins showing up to work at 5:15 pm. Nobody seems to notice or care.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    If it is common for co-workers to buddy punch and there is no feedback for the behavior, new workers will think this is acceptable. The manager needs to set a better example by showing up on time and communicate company policy. Alternatively, the business owner can incorporate a digital time clock to avoid any attendance fraud. 
  • Minnie works at St. Barry’s Senior Living Home and she is unhappy with her shift hours. She had stated before that her shift starts around the time when she picks her daughter up from school. While she works hard during a shift, she is resentful that management ignored her availability and often makes timesheet and payment mistakes. Minnie gets back at management by showing up to work late often. Her co-worker Felicity punches in for her, and sometimes Minnie returns the favor when Felicity is late. Minnie’s lateness ranges from 5-25 minutes, sometimes more if she picks her daughter up from school.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    The lower the employee satisfaction rate, the higher the rate of employee absenteeism. While Minnie is a hard worker, her work schedule conflicts with her availability. This can be avoided with scheduling software that makes it easy for managers to create flexible schedules, as well as avoid timesheet or payment errors. It also includes a digital time clock for accurate attendance tracking. Besides having the right equipment, managers need to be present and attentive to employee needs. Technology can help.

(Manager POV)

  • Olivia is the manager of Wires and Warehousing Inc. She worked her way up from a picker to district manager. One of the things she remembers is how she would show up to work on time every shift, but co-workers who didn’t would just buddy punch. She knows how demoralizing that was for her, and she always told herself she would do something about it. However, now she is realizing how difficult it is to budget her time. She has so many other responsibilities, including forecasting costs, balancing budgets, and long-term strategy. She is already spending over 10 hours a week on creating schedules, rearranging them, communicating the rescheduling, and it is burning her out. Even though she knows buddy punching is happening, she doesn’t have time to deal with it.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    Olivia is spending too much time a week on HR admin, including scheduling, timesheets, and payments. Even though she knows buddy punching affects team morale and can increase employee turnover of good team members, it’s not a priority. However, Olivia’s problems with scheduling and buddy punching can both be solved with Hyre’s free scheduling software and digital time clock for accurate attendance tracking. She can streamline all scheduling on one platform, where she can communicate with staff, update timesheets, and forecast costs much more easily. 
  • Steven manages Beach City’s Summer Camp, and his lifeguards sometimes show up late. They are usually only 5 to 10 minutes late, but he cannot open up the beach without enough lifeguards on duty. They usually have excuses around traffic and sleeping in. He has told his team the importance of showing up to their shift 15 minutes early in order to get ready. His friend Garnet, who is also a manager tells him the only thing he can do is monitor his staff by being there physically or installing a security camera. This is hard to do as Beach City’s Summer Camp includes many other activity areas that Steven needs to be.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    One option for Steven to get his team to take buddy punching seriously is to create negative consequences. For example, he could create a system where after a warning, an employee gets suspended for lateness. However, this requires Steven to monitor his staff or install expensive cameras. It also requires him to hire new employees to replace the old ones if they are suspended. A better way for team morale is to use a digital time clock that tracks when staff are clocking in. Hyre’s free scheduling software does this easily and allows for staff to directly reach out to him for any feedback. 
  • Arthur manages Camelot Theatre’s Magical Mysteries and notices one of his best workers, Merlin has recently come in late more often. Merlin has also started forgetting his lines and inventing his own. Sometimes, he is nowhere to be found during his shift. However, Merlin is a favorite member of the cast from customers that frequently request him. Arthur appreciates Merlin’s initiative of new ways to enchant the audience, but he is still extremely worried about Merlin’s behavior and the example it may set for newcomers.

    How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

    Arthur can sit down and have a conversation with Merlin about what can be done regarding his lateness. It is important to create an open environment for Merlin to share if he is dealing with any personal issues. In this case, Merlin is taking care of his mother who has become very sick and often needs help in the morning. This has taken much of Merlin’s time and energy, and sometimes he even rushes home during his shift if the neighbors see his Mother wandering, delirious. Arthur can consider offering Merlin time off in order to care for his mother or create more flexible shift options for Merlin. With Merlin’s permission, he can communicate with the team what is going on, so the workplace can be supportive while understanding this is an exception, not a rule. In case of emergencies, Arthur can use Hyre’s scheduling software and temp staffing to hire qualified temp staff and fill-in last-minute vacancies.

    There are many ways to improve business success and eliminate time wasted on HR. From timesheets to payments, streamline shift worker management with Hyre. Try Hyre’s scheduling software for free to save 10-20 hours a week.

Leave a Reply