What is Time Card Manipulation, and How Can You Spot It?



If you manage any sort of business that pays by the hour, there are few crimes more problematic or expensive than time card manipulation. Time card manipulation can be incredibly expensive, damage your productivity, and hurt business morale for employees who do not steal time or falsify time worked.


Fortunately, while time card manipulation is one of many major problems a business can experience, there are ways to simultaneously create time sheets that prevent time theft and ensure that your time records are valid and accurate. Here's more information on how to do just that.


What is Time Card Manipulation?

Time card manipulation refers to any sort of cheating with the hours worked as part of an effort to engage in changing their time card without permission. It involves the following:

  • There are many examples of time card manipulation: This includes buddy punching, altering the time clock system, or failing to clock in and out at the appropriate times.

  • It can be used to earn overtime pay: Some will use time clock manipulation to steal time to increase overtime pay.

  • Employers can do it too: Remember, an employer falsifying timesheets is also time card fraud. This may be done to reduce hours worked and avoid paying employees time, and it is absolutely a violation of labor laws.

  • Watch for new employees: Remember, new employees may be the ones who are searching for loopholes in your system. Keep an eye on them and their habits, and make sure that they understand that time card manipulation will not be tolerated.

How Can I Prevent An Employee from Falsifying Their Time Card?

Keep in mind that there are many things you can do to stop time theft and reduce time card fraud.

  • Know how to manipulate a time clock: One of the more common methods of time card manipulation is by employees altering the physical or digital clock. You need to learn how this happens and how to prevent it.

  • Audit your time cards: Regular inspection of time cards and your timekeeping system can reveal fraud. However, it can also reveal more systemic, fundamental issues you need to address in your business to reduce time card fraud.

  • Be clear in communication and handbooks: Some employees may plead ignorance or claim that they are unaware that time card manipulation is illegal or immoral. Such a claim is ridiculous, of course, but it goes to a more fundamental point: You should be clear in your expectations of employees and ensure that they know you will not tolerate time card manipulation. Lay this out in your handbook and any other documents, and ensure employees understand the consequences of time card manipulation.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Preventing time card manipulation requires employers to pay attention to various items.

  • It may be a sign of bigger problems: If you are having issues with your time clock system, it may indicate more significant problems with your organization. For example, you may have issues with employee morale, productivity, or adherence to labor laws. Time tracking issues may be the tip of the iceberg, and you may need to bring in outside experts to see what's wrong and what you can do to improve your business.

  • Understand your state and local wage and hour laws: Your state or locality may have specific laws designed to protect employees and employers from time card manipulation. Make sure you familiarize yourself with those laws and that you seek to adhere to them.

  • Consider electronic systems: Old-fashioned time cards are now mainly out of date. Furthermore, they can be easy to manipulate in a variety of ways. Digital systems can be automated, accurate to the second, and impossible to alter without the employee and employer being made aware and signing off on any potential changes. You may want to consider the expense of investing in one of these systems, as doing so may prove to be an investment that is well worth it.

Looking for more HR tips, tricks, and templates?

Do you need more advice on managing time card manipulation, help with setting up a solid timekeeping system, or other assistance for your small business? Check out our collection of HR resources and find new and better ways to manage employees, processes, and more.