What is Buddy Punching in Construction, and is it Illegal?

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The construction industry uses a large manual workforce, which often leads to challenges such as buddy punching. Buddy punching may seem like a small violation but can bring significant losses to a company. The American Payroll Association (APA) reports that over 75% of businesses throughout the U.S have to bear the consequences of time theft. As a whole, it comes down to 2.2% of the gross payroll.

The construction companies often find it hard to tackle the issue since installing machines to track attendance is not practical. This scenario is because construction companies don’t have one fixed site and have to move from place to place for work. Therefore, they have to rely on traditional attendance methods such as manual marking by a security guard. This is one of the leading causes of buddy punching.

However, SmartBarrel is a workforce management software solution that enables contractors to manage work hours effectively and prevent time-fraud.

What is buddy punching?

In a nutshell, buddy punching refers to a scenario when an employee marks in or out for a fellow colleague. For example, a worker might clock in a worker who is still on his way to work or at a coffee shop queue just down the road. Or one might ask a fellow worker to sign them out later after they have left the construction. These scenarios are typical examples of time theft caused by buddy punching.

The workers might think they are trying to help a friend out without realizing the hefty loss for a company in terms of payroll. It is much more common in the construction industry since the nature of their workplace is informal and mobile.

The hours will continue to accumulate into payroll despite getting no work done in the duration. The issue requires immediate attention; otherwise, it may cost the construction company plenty of money in the long run. Therefore, businesses need to address these issues before they get complicated.

Is buddy punching illegal?

Buddy punching is illegal in numerous states and is considered a fraud resulting in contract termination. Most construction businesses have practices and protocols that outline the rules regarding time theft.

While it is evident that buddy punching is dishonest, it can result in legal prosecution if any business pursues the matter.

Reasons for buddy punching

Numerous reasons cause workers to resort to buddy punching. Construction businesses need to understand them first. Below are a few common reasons for buddy punching:

●      Low morale level

There might be a low level of motivation for work around workers due to different rules and regulations. At sites with too much strictness or autocratic management, the workers feel indifferent towards the firm.

Their negative sentiment can cause different problems, including buddy punching.

●      Feeling exploited and underpaid

Workers can also resort to buddy punching if they feel like they are being underpaid. They may think they are not appreciated and feel like they deserve an extra buck or two for their work.

Some workers may feel entitled to additional payments even when it has nothing to do with how a business treats them.

●      Unaware of consequences

Construction firms usually have strict policies against buddy punching, but many employees are unaware. Ultimately, the workers may not fully understand the consequences of buddy punching because they are unaware of the time theft policies.

How to prevent buddy punching in construction?

There are many ways to prevent buddy punching and save additional resources. With the help of technology, time theft prevention is now easier than ever for construction firms.

●      Create an adequate time policy

It is important to realize that a clear and concise policy can help the construction firm reduce time theft. It is crucial to prepare one and ensure the employees abide by it. When the business and employees are on the same page, the business will foresee a decrease in buddy punching. The rules and regulations should explain the consequences of time theft to the workers.

●      Take disciplinary action

Whenever a worker breaches any policy, it should result in disciplinary action. Make sure you are steadfast in your approach and deal with the guilty workers accordingly. It is important to show zero tolerance for buddy punching and time theft.

It will help set an example for other workers and fix short-term problems. Policies without implications will not be enough to lower the time theft issues.

●      Use biometric attendance tracking

Many companies have also adopted biometric attendance systems to ensure workers adhere to work timings.

This technology ensures that the time tracking is accurate and makes it impossible for any worker to exploit this method of the clock.

Improve the company’s culture and values

A company’s culture can play a vital role in employee engagement and progress. Satisfied and happy workers always stick to the company’s rules and regulations and are less likely to resort to unethical practices such as buddy punching.

Make sure the overall environment is healthy and take workers’ needs into account.

  • Do not adopt strict policies that may hinder worker’s abilities
  • Set clear goals, guidelines, and communication in each department
  • Promote communication and honesty among the staff members
  • Pay employees well and on time.

Implementing these aspects will help a construction firm establish a decent workforce and reduce time theft.

Bottom Line

Buddy punching often leads businesses to lose plenty of money. Therefore, an effective system and policies are necessary to counter this problem. It is a serious workplace offense, and construction sites should deal with it as soon as possible.

Make technology and innovation your best friend to create an effective time tracking process. We hope this guide helped you know more about buddy punching in construction.