What Is an Employee Time Clock?

Employee time clocks (also known as punch clocks) are devices used to more easily track the time employees spend working. Rather than relying on paper time cards, word of mouth, or manager accountability, time clocks digitally track exactly when employees come in and out of work. The time data is securely stored and integrated with payroll systems to allow for automation in time tracking and employee payroll.

Usually time clock devices are kept in areas where employees arrive and depart from their work area. This could be in break rooms, near entrances/exits, or wherever employees can easily mark their “on” or “off” shift as soon as they start or finish.

There are several makes and models of employee time clocks. Most often they’re a simple keypad and digital screen that employees can “punch in” and mark when they are or are not working. Employees are meant to punch in/out when they arrive and leave work, and depending on company policy, when they take breaks.

Why Are Employee Time Clocks Beneficial?

Here are some of the biggest benefits of using an employee time clock.

  • Shifts accountability to the employee. With employee time clocks, employers don’t have to spend any time tracking when employees are working and when they aren’t. Time clocks force employees to mark when they are/aren’t working, with their compliance affecting their take-home pay.
  • Integration. Time clocks can integrate with your payroll software so the collected time data is seamlessly transferred for use at the end of each pay period.
  • Automation. With the right HRIS, payroll can become almost completely automated by using employee time clocks. When you set up pay periods and paydays in your HRIS, it can automatically use the time clock data for each pay period to pump out direct deposit checks. All payroll administrators need to do is a quick review to make sure there are no abnormalities.

Popular Types of Employee Time Clocks

As technology changes, there are new ways employees can punch in and out. Here are some common types.

Punch Card Time Clock

Punch card time clocks are becoming less and less common. To use, employees insert a punch card each time they clock in and out, and the time clock punches time stamps onto the card. These time clocks aren’t digital and therefore more difficult to include in automated payroll systems.

Keypad Time Clock

With keypad time clocks, instead of punch cards, each employee uses their employee number or personal pin number to punch in and out. Keypad time clocks are commonly digital, so they can integrate with your HRIS to streamline payroll.

Card Swipe Time Clock

Similar to the keypad time clock, the card swipe time clock doesn’t require a manual numeric entry. Employees only need their time clock swipe card to pass through the time clock to track their hours.

Biometric Time Clock

Some time clocks scan employee fingerprints or faces to clock employees in and out. Since verifying identities is so important with time clocks, this is a secure technology that ensures employees don’t purposely or accidentally punch in/out for a coworker.

Web-Based Time Clock

Some HRIS allow employees to clock in and out on the web. Many of these systems even have a mobile app that employees can download on their smartphones so they can clock in/out or edit their time entries when they’re not in the office. This is a good solution for organizations with hybrid or remote-based employees.

Best Employee Time Clocks

Here are some different types of time clocks ready for purchase.

uPunch Starter Time Clock

If you don’t plan on integrating with a fancy HRIS, stick with the basics with this physical time card punch clock. This item comes with several paper punch cards as well as punch card racks for your employees’ easy access.

NGTeco Time Clock

This time clock is a one-stop shop for all the technology you need in a time clock. Employees can use a personal pin, fingerprint, or face scanner to clock in and out of work. It also comes with software accessible by phone or computer so your employees can punch in and out no matter where they are. The software includes many features, like alerts when employees exceed a certain amount of overtime.

TotalPass P600 Employee Time Clock

This basic time clock allows punches by pin or badge. Let employees create their own pin or provide them with a card/badge to carry and use when they arrive at or depart from work.

Effective Employee Time Clock Alternatives

If you don’t want to hang up a physical time clock, here are some alternatives that may work for you.

Manual Tracking

Have your employees track their own time by spreadsheet or by paper. Accountability can lie with the employees themselves or their managers. As long as they send completed time cards by payroll deadlines, your payroll administrators can enter the data manually into the payroll software or prepare physical paper checks. This may be a cheap solution but is only realistic for smaller organizations.

Time Management Apps

There are many free or cheap time tracking apps that can be used for payroll or other projects where time management is important. Data can usually be exported in a friendly format to make the payroll administrator’s job easier as well.

HRIS Integrated Solution

Many modern HRIS ditch the physical time clock entirely and use mobile apps and websites for employees to track their time. This is the most seamless and automated solution as data is effortlessly transferred from the employees’ hands to their regular checks.

To learn more about human resource information systems, check out this article.