Biometric Benefits

by Katie Lee

Advantages of fingerprint time clocks in hourly industries.

By Michelle Lanter Smith

“Buddy punching” is an age-old custom of one employee clocking in for another, with the hope that the manager or supervisor will not notice. In the past, it was a simple matter of signing a timesheet or stamping a co-worker’s time card. However, even more modern sign-in methods using passwords and swipe cards have not fully eliminated the problem.

In an independent study of 1,000 employees undertaken in 2017, 16% of the employees in the study admitted to clocking in for a co-worker. The most common variance is 15 minutes. However, in some cases, buddy punching has been used to get paid for hours of overtime or even days of absence.

The most current information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that there are more than 78 million hourly workers in the U.S. If 16% of those workers clocked in for even just 15 minutes of absent co-worker’s time, the annual cost to business owners would total $373 million.

Biometric Systems for Identifying Employees

Biometric data is based on the physical characteristic of an individual. The fact that they are unique to any given person makes them virtually impossible to substitute, decreasing the potential for fraud and theft of time. The increased accuracy has reduced payroll costs from 1.5% to as much as 10%.

The two most common biometric solutions are fingerprint recognition and facial recognition.

Anyone who is a fan of any forensic or crime television shows has undoubtedly seen their computers whizzing through a database of fingerprints, attempting to match arches, whorls, ridges and so on. In terms of facial recognition, they generally show a multitude of lines measuring the distance between eyebrows, the length of the nose, the shape of the mouth and so forth. The basic technology is similar.

Fingerprint Recognition Technology

Algorithms are used to store representations of employee fingerprints. Due to the technology used, these are not retrievable, so actual fingerprints and other potentially sensitive information are not available to hackers.

When employees enter the facility, they press their index finger or thumb, depending on the system, on an installed terminal. The fingerprint is scanned, and the software attempts to find an exact match to a representation that is on file. The system then clocks the time, in or out, that the appropriate match is made.

In various industrial and manufacturing environments, workers may have dirt, grease, oil, sweat or other substances on their hands that could obscure a clear representation. To address this situation, some systems have multi-spectral sensors that capture image data at various frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. This has made the use of fingerprint clocking technology an option for any industry, depending on vendor.

Facial Recognition Technology

There are two possible levels of facial recognition to prevent buddy punching.

The first is a simple photo capture when an employee clocks in and out. Although there may be a complete database of employee photos, the system does not automatically compare or match the picture taken at the terminal with a picture in the database. However, the photos become part of the employee’s timesheet and can be monitored or checked by a supervisor or manager at any time.

The more sophisticated version is similar to the fingerprint recognition technology. When an employee clocks in or out, sensors scan the employee’s face and look for a match within the database.

Other Benefits of Biometric Time Clocks

There are, of course, a number of systems and devices on the market. Depending on the vendor and that company’s specific system, the following additional features may be available:

  • Off-site monitoring: More and more workers are telecommuting and traveling. Commonly, they fill out online timesheets weekly, which are only as accurate and reliable as the employee. Biometric time clocks, however, can be integrated with Internet-connected mobile devices, so employers can monitor employees, no matter where they are located.
  • Self-service features: These may include employee access to timesheets, pay history and schedules.
  • Messaging: Managers can communicate with employees by delivering messaging on the terminal, when they clock in or out.
  • Compliance with meal-break laws: Some systems enable employers to set a minimum duration before employees can clock back in. They may also create alerts to notify managers when meal breaks are too long, too short or completely missed.

Introducing Biometrics to Your Employees

The use of biometrics would be a major change for any company. To gain faster and easier acceptance by employees, consider:

  • Informing employees in advance of the implementation and explaining the necessity.
  • Letting them know that none of the stored information is retrievable.
  • Explaining that it can provide enhanced security for them, as well, since it can lock out access to highly secured areas by non-permitted personnel.

Making any operational changes in a company takes time and should be carefully planned and reviewed with employees to ensure complete understanding. For hourly industries, ensuring proper time tracking is critical for reducing expenses. Implementing technology like biometric time clocks offers employers a better way to track employee work hours and keep a better grasp on the bottom line.


— Michelle Lanter Smith is the chief marketing officer of EPAY Systems, where she oversees the company’s go-to-market strategy, customer success and technical support operations. Smith brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in driving revenue growth for high-tech and service-driven firms. For more information, visit

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