Archives for posts with tag: time

In this ongoing series we look at ways of preventing employee theft. In part one we looked a cash handling methods, in part two we looked at credit card theft, in part three we looked look at best practices for preventing theft from inventory, and this week we look at time theft.

In most of this series, on preventing employee theft, we have been envisioning an individual who uses subterfuge to steal from their employer. Employee time theft can be a subtler and it can lead to shift in culture which makes time theft seem almost a perk to employees. Time theft can happen with both salaried and hourly employees; but since salaried employees should either be senior management or professions such as lawyers or doctors time theft, other than unproductivity, time theft primarily affects hourly employees.

Since the ultimate result of time theft is that the company is paying for labor it is not receiving, it is still theft and the amounts involved can add up dramatically; particularly if it becomes a widespread problem and culturally acceptable.



image courtesy of ShutterStock



All hourly employees should clock-in and clock-out; whether this is by using a manual time clock, a computer, or some other system. Try to have the time clock in a visible location, not hidden in a corner. This discourages employees from clocking each other in. It also discourages employees from arriving, clocking in, and then getting ready for work (putting items in their locker, taking off their jacket etc.)

All employers should have a system in place for tracking employees who call in sick or who call in saying they are going to be late. This call-in information must make its way to whomever is entering payroll so that it can be reconciled with who has been clocked in and out. If this does not happen “employee A” can call in sick but “employee B” can still clock them in and then out at the end of the day. If the report of the call-in just ends up in their employee file, “employee A” will still get paid for a day that they were not even in the building. If this happens at the beginning of a payroll period it is unlikely that anyone is going to remember the absence unless there is a protocol for recording it in the payroll system.

Be very wary of systems that allow for employees to clock in off site. They must be under strict control and ideally there should be some kind of flag in the system to ensure that the off-site clock-in system is only used when it has to be used because the employee actually is working off site.



image courtesy of Pixabay

“I Forgot To Clock-In”


Employees can, and do, forget to clock-in. However, it is a good practice to spot check the time of arrival of an employee who has “forgotten” to clock-in with another system, such as looking at video playback of them walking through the door. An employee who is late, and their lateness is not noticed by a supervisor or manager, can make up when they arrived and claim that they forgot to clock-in. Therefore, spot checks are essential.



image courtesy of Pixabay


Meal Breaks

Currently, federal law does not require employers to provide meal breaks. However, rules do vary at the state level with currently 21 out of 50 states requiring that employees get a meal break of some description. The rules vary widely from state to state; but usually work along the lines one unpaid break of half an hour, or an hour, and one or two shorter unpaid brakes per 8-hour shift. A perennial problem is employees not taking a required unpaid break, thereby going into overtime, and also potentially getting the employer in trouble with the state labor board if the state requires that breaks be observed. A time thief may take their lunch but not clock-out. If confronted at the time the thief may fall back on that they “forgot” and after the fact they may rely on “we were too busy.”

A potential resolution to both the above issues is to automatically clock employees out for their meal breaks and make them receive formal supervisor approval to work through their break and get paid for it. This is potentially fraught with legal issues and a labor law attorney should be consulted before instituting such a policy due the differences in labor laws between states. However, is it a very powerful way of ensuring that breaks are observed, but it also suffers from its own issues as employees, knowing that their break will be automatically deducted anyway, may take longer breaks than they are strictly entitled to.

Questioning employees who miss significant numbers of mandated breaks should go hand in hand with the implementation of a systems which allows employees to take their breaks at times that are both convenient for the business and the employee.



image courtesy of Pixabay


Time Clock Security

As mentioned before, placing a time clock in a readily observable space will help alleviate the worst abuses of time theft. If using a mechanical time clock, however, it is imperative that only a very senior member of staff can set the time of the clock itself. If any employee can change the time of a time clock and get paid for an additional 15 minutes that they did not work, you can be sure that it will happen. Likewise, with computer-based systems, it is important that something as simple as changing the time on the computer does not affect the time that an employee is clocked in at.

For ease of catching issues, it is important that time clocks, whether mechanical or computer based, are set to the correct time. Although, it does not affect the number of hours worked or the length of an employee’s break, having them set to the correct time engenders trust in the system and makes tracing issues using other systems, such as time stamped video, much simpler.



image courtesy of Pixabay


Employers Stealing Time from Employees

Employees, in order to get ahead of their day, or just gain extra hours, may come to work ahead of their shift and clock-in as soon as they arrive. This is a scheduling matter that should be handled as a coaching and then disciplinary issue. What should not happen is that the employer adjusts the employee’s clock-in time to match the time when their shift was scheduled to start. This is theft.

The Department of Labor takes a very dim view of such things as employees are entitled to get paid for the time that they have worked and to overtime for anything over 40-hours.

To protect themselves, employers should have employees receive copies of when they have been clocked in and out each day and ideally return them signed. Several payroll systems give employees direct access to see their hours, but not change them, at any time. Any change to an employee’s hours that is made should be made in complete transparency with the full understanding and approval of he employee.

It should also go without saying that meetings, lectures over a break which are mandatory, and travel to off-site locations, should all be paid unless your labor law attorney specifically tells you otherwise.

It is easy for employees to accuse employers of not paying them for hours worked. In these instances, it is almost always up to the employer to prove why this is not the case. Integrity of employee times and strong policies and procedures for making adjustments will provide significant protection and reduce the likelihood of any misunderstandings.

Next week, in the final part of this series, we look at overall theft prevention measures, company culture, and examples of real employee thefts.


A Very Fictional Exchange

By Mike Falconer

Dr. Try Ingtodomybest: Good afternoon Ms. Dis Satisfied what seems to be the problem?

Ms. Dis Satisfied: Problem? I’ll tell you what the problem is. I’ve been waiting to see you for 45 minutes and then when I do see you it is only for 10 minutes!

Dr. T: I’m sorry, we’ve been rather busy today and we we have had other cases that have taken longer than we would have liked – I’m so sorry for the delay.

Ms. D: You are just too busy, you don’t allow enough time for each appointment. You just try to pack us all in so you can charge as much as you can per hour. Oh and by the way you charge too much – been here 10 minutes and you want to charge me almost $200!

Dr. T: To be perfectly honest there is a certain amount of truth in what you say. We have to schedule based on the best use of our time with the most optimistic length of each visit. If we didn’t, your visit would be even more expensive.

Ms. D: Nonsense. My 10 minute visit should cost the same regardless of what else is going on in this hospital. I am only using 10 minutes of your and the staff’s time.

Dr. T: If only that were the case. You see you also pay for the down time; well actually to be more precise all clients do, just like you all pay for the overhead of the building.

Ms. D: Why should I pay for you doing nothing?

Dr. T: Believe me I don’t want you to, I want you to only pay for the time that you use, but in order for that to happen we need to keep as busy as possible. The busier we are the more efficient use of our labor which is 50% of our cost of your visit.

Ms. D: So what you are telling me is that your time is more valuable than mine?

Dr. T: Only in as much as you value it in that way. In order to make care for your pet accessible there is a balance to be struck between the average waiting time / length of appointment and the cost of that appointment. Let me put it this way, Would you be willing to pay more to guarentee less of a wait time and a longer, on average appointment?

Ms. D: That would be depend on the value of the appointment?

Dr. T: I am assuming that is value as you see it as opposed to how I see it?

Ms. D: Surely they are the same thing?

Dr. T: The value of a heartworm test to me is, other than it being good medicine and the best thing for your pet of course, is what you pay for it and the potential for finding other conditions. If we catch a condition early we can then treat with the better chance of a good outcome because we caught them early. The value for you of a heartworm test is piece of mind and it allows you to receive heartworm preventive which is what is the best thing for the health of your pet. Those points of view both have value, but if our view of value is too out of sync then you won’t get the heartworm test for your dog, neither of us has piece of mind and although your visit will be shorter and I can see another patient more quickly, I will not receive the fee for the test or the medication.

Ms. D: So what you are telling me is that if I want to have a longer appointment with you and less waiting time I would have to pay more?

Dr. T: Well of course. The basic rule of veterinary medicine as things currently stand is the whatever walks through the doors pays the bills. If not enough walks through the doors one of three things happens. We raise our prices, we lower our costs (wages are 50% of our costs remember), or we close.

Ms. D: You could always get more people to come through your doors?

Dr. T: Absolutely, but these are the other side of the coin of raising prices and lowering costs. Getting people through the door when they are not already coming in means lowering prices or raising costs – in other words marketing. If successful it solves the problem if it fails it, course just makes the problem worse.
Ms. D: But this just sounds like all you care about is the money?

Dr. T: The flip side of that is that all you care about is the money! Everyone in the building spends their days with pets and most have made it their career and for less money than they could get in other professions.

Ms. D: I’m tired of that argument – there is value in spending your day with pets most people would love a job like that.

Dr. T: Touche! However the reality does not always live up to the public perception. Hence the high burn out rate and other serious ills of the profession. I’ll give your visit today for free if you can name a television portrayal which matches what actually happens inside a real hospital.

Ms. D: ……

Dr. T: Do you like flying?

Ms. D: No I hate it, packed in like sardines, air travel used to be so stylish.

Dr. T: Why don’t you fly business class or first class?

Ms. D: Because I am not made of money – I come here too often.

Dr. T: A business class seat costs anywhere from 2 – 4 times the price of an economy priced seat because it uses the 2 – 4 times the resources of an economy seat. The most precious of which is, of course, space. Your hankering for the good old days of air travel was when all seats were business class. Lowering the barriers to air travel has meant we can now travel like never before; however, it also means that we do not value it in the same way.

Ms. D: So if I am understanding you correctly, you are telling me that as a Doctor you have to bring in a certain amount of money every hour like a quota. How can I trust you if you are doing this?

Dr. T: That is one way of looking at it. I would rather look at it as I have to carry my share of costs of having a facility like this so it can be open. As long as we charge appropriately the unwritten contract that we have where we charge based on our costs and in return we will make every effort to be cognizant of not taking you for granted and at the same time not letting you take us for granted, will mean that conversations like this will never have to happen in the real world.

Ms. D: Well thank you for your time and for your insights – can I get a payment plan for todays visit please?

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