Buddy Punching: What It Is And How It’s Costing You More Than You May Realize
“Andy, I’m stuck in traffic, and I can’t get there on time. Could you punch me in?”
A text similar to this gets sent thousands of times a year. Too often, the co-worker obliges, and this is bad news for employers. It can be difficult to spot or notice in the bottom line, and it may be costing them more than they realize.
They aren’t only paying for work that’s not being done, but the practice helps to create a culture of disrespect between employees and management. It’s not easy to respect someone that you’re hoodwinking. Other employees who are aware of it may lose respect for management for not catching it. Employees who see co-workers buddy punching may start to believe that it’s an acceptable practice in the company’s culture.
Even worse is the practice of a worker having someone else clock them out after they’ve left work early. This isn’t someone asking a friend to help them avoid a consequence of their mistake, it’s premeditated theft.
Buddy Punching Tricks and How Much it Can Cost You
In 2006, the city of Tuscon, AZ fired two supervisors, suspended 2 more supervisors, and reprimanded 13 workers over a buddy punching scheme that they estimate cost the city $100,000. One of the supervisors who was fired publicly defended the practice, claiming that it kept morale high in his department. He also said that allowing the workers to leave before they were clocked out made the workers more efficient, reducing the need for overtime.
This kind of justification for the blatant fraud of buddy punching may not be common, but it is certainly not unique, either. The American Payroll Association did a study on buddy punching, and their findings are disturbing. They polled employees about the practice, and employees admitted to stealing about 4.5 hours per week. That’s over 225 hours per year, more than a month’s pay. This is just the employees who admitted to doing it. 19% of employees admitted to buddy punching.
The APA estimates that 75% of companies lose money to buddy punching, and they believe that buddy punching and schedule exceptions account for 5% of gross payrolls.
Buddy Punching Can Lead to Diaster
There are several theories that try to explain employee theft such as buddy punching. In rough economic times, some businesses have had to reduce their workforce in order to survive, and the employees may resent the extra workload, and use this to justify buddy punching to themselves.
According to the FBI, employee theft is the fastest-growing crime in the country. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that 30% of business failures are the result of employee theft. Compared to an employee dipping into the till or leaving with valuable product, buddy punching could seem to employees as much less of a theft.
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