Thu, Jul 6 2023 | People Management How to Stop Time Theft In Its Tracks

You don’t have to accept time theft as part of doing business. Learn how to spot and stop it while enhancing your employee experience.

Time theft.

Sadly, it's a top problem for most businesses — whether they know it or not.

Employees stealing time at work by padding their time cards is nothing new.

Don’t despair. You’ve got options to catch time theft before it breaks your business.

OPTION #1 — Skulk around spying on your employees and watch hours of surveillance video to see when your employees ACTUALLY clock in vs. the clock-in time recorded on their time card.

Manually make the time card changes before payroll comes out.

Every. Single. Pay. Period.

Oh. And you’ll probably kill your company culture in the process.

OPTION #2 — Invest in time tracking software that streamlines time and attendance tracking, automatically sends you notifications, and increases flexibility for your employees.

The choice is yours.

If you’re leaning (or running) toward option #2, we’re with you.

We’re tackling the subject of squashing time theft by covering:

Looking for a solution to time theft? MakeShift helps reduce time theft while enhancing employee experience with our people-first scheduling and time-tracking approach.


What Is Time Theft?

Time theft occurs when employees get paid for time they didn't work.

Plain and simple.

We aren’t talking about the hours or minutes devoted to break times or, for mobile employees, travel between jobs that's usually compensated.

No, we’re talking about stealing time from work.

Time theft is intentionally reporting hours (or minutes) that an employee didn't actually do the work they were being paid to do.

And unfortunately, it’s a HUGE problem in business.


The American Payroll Association (APA) found that 75% of U.S. businesses are impacted by time theft yearly.

Would you be shocked to learn that the average employee steals 4 hours and 5 minutes weekly?

Every week!

6 Types of Time Theft

The pandemic changed how we work — much of the workforce is hybrid, remote, or mobile today.

And while that offers incredible flexibility for employees, it can also be a time-tracking nightmare that creates an opportunity for time theft.

6 run-of-the-mill types of time theft are:

  1. Fudging time worked — 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there…
  2. Taking longer than allowed breaks — A 15-minute break that routinely turns into 30.
  3. Buddy punching — An employee clocks in a late coworker stuck in traffic.
  4. Misrepresenting time spent on the road — Lingering at a gas station to scroll through social media for 20 minutes.
  5. Personal tasks — Phone calls, personal emails, banking, paying bills, or a quick grocery run during work time.
  6. Getting sucked down the internet rabbit hole — We’ve all been down this rabbit hole. How many funny cat videos have YOU watched? But web surfing during work time is stealing.

How To Spot, Stop, and Prevent Time Theft

There’s no debate that time theft is a big issue in the workplace. But there are ways to spot and stop it or, better yet, prevent it in the first place.

It’s crucial to the life of your business that you pay attention to this problem and do something to stop it.

If you don’t, it can cost you a lot of Benjamins.


According to a QuickBooks survey, time theft costs U.S. employers a whopping $11 billion annually.

That’s billion. With a B.

Fortunately, you can take action to stop it with these 4 steps.

1. Focus on Employee Engagement

Engaged employees take more ownership of their work life, and taking ownership means they’re less apt to steal work time.


A Gallup survey found that companies that work on increasing their employee engagement see a 28% decline in internal theft.

A few simple ways to improve employee engagement are:

  • Improve communication — Streamline team communication using a single communication channel and encourage employees to share their thoughts about work.
  • Get employees involved in their scheduling — Use scheduling software that allows employees to set their availability, easily swap shifts, and view their schedules on their phones.
  • Let your employees do work they love — Ask your staff which work tasks they enjoy most, then put them on those tasks.
  • Reward top performers — Monitor employee performance monthly or quarterly and publicly reward those excelling.

2. Educate Employees on Time Theft

Convey to your employees that time theft is anything involving the use of paid company time for personal purposes, such as:

  • Taking long breaks
  • Arriving late
  • Leaving early
  • Misrepresenting travel time
  • Using company resources for personal tasks without permission.

Communicate what time theft costs your employees. When they steal time from work, there’s less money to incentivize them (Company swag, bonuses…etc.).

3. Implement a Clear Time & Attendance Policy

Roll into this step with the attitude of education rather than admonishment. Let your employees know you want to elevate company culture, hence this policy.

  1. Clearly state what’s expected regarding attendance, punctuality, and tardiness.
  2. Explain the consequences of not meeting these expectations.
  3. Provide employees with a copy of the policy and have them sign a copy to keep on file.
  4. Enforce the policy.

Remember, you’re creating a culture of clear communication rather than unspoken expectations.

From here on out, if you have to address time theft, you can reference back to having covered this policy.

4. Invest In Time Tracking Software

Time tracking software efficiently tracks employee time and attendance and reduces time theft with 1 solution.

Let your staff know this’ll help your company be profitable, which benefits them in the long run.

In addition to handling time theft, time tracking software offers a boatload of other benefits.

7 More Benefits of Time Tracking Software:

1. A Productivity Boost — Time tracking software helps keep employees focused and on task, reducing distractions and wasted time.

2. Accurate Billing — When creating invoices, time tracking software helps to calculate billable hours and associated costs accurately.

3. Increased Flexibility — Software accessed on their phone allows employees to work flexible hours or remotely and quickly and accurately log their time.

4. Improved Communication — With time tracking software, employees can easily collaborate on projects and tasks.

5. More Employee Satisfaction — Time tracking software helps to ensure your employees receive fair compensation for their work, leading to increased job satisfaction.

6. Time Efficiency — With software, time and attendance is logged and automatically sent to you. This saves you and your employees time for tasks that can’t be automated.

7. Increased Profits — Accurate time tracking leads to increased efficiency and improved cost management, resulting in increased profits.

How To Choose Time Tracking Software

The point of integrating any software into your business operation is to make life easier.

When selecting your time tracking software, use this checklist as a guide for must-have features:

  • Clock in from phone
  • Geo-fencing
  • Payroll Integration
  • Mobile app

MakeShift’s Time & Attendance

MakeShift goes beyond staff scheduling by including features that streamline employee management and encourage team cohesiveness.

We’ve designed our time and attendance solution to help reduce time theft and enhance work life with the advantages of our features below:

Easy Clock-In

  • Quick clock-ins from the employee mobile app.
  • Photos on time punches prevent "buddy punching.
  • Location-based clock-ins.


Accurate Timesheets

  • Managers approve and close timesheets.
  • Automated wage calculations based on payroll rules.
  • Payroll exports to popular payroll providers.

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  • Daily schedule view of shifts compared to clock-ins.
  • Adjust employee time entries.
  • See who is working and who is out.

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✴BONUS✴ The time and attendance feature helps you make your scheduling smarter.

You Don’t Have To Accept Time Theft

Unfortunately, employees stealing time from work is expected. But you don’t have to accept time theft as part of doing business.

You can spot and stop it and, yes, even prevent it.

And that doesn’t mean you must become a babysitter or a stealthy spy.

MakeShift can revolutionize your staff scheduling and make managing employee time and attendance a snap. Request a free demo today.


Ready to Make the Shift?



Asher Fredricks

Written By: Asher Fredricks

Asher has been helping businesses improve their staff scheduling and human capital management systems for over 4 years. Before setting out to improve HR departments with people-first initiatives and technologies, he earned his MBA in Business Management.