Do you round your employee clock punches or meal times?

Customers often ask me if our time tracking service supports time rounding – i.e. if our system will adjust a clock punch up or down a preset interval. So when an employee clocks in at 7:55, the system adjusts it to 8AM.

The short answer is ‘yes’, we do support that feature. The long answer is, we advise against using it for many reasons.

Time Rounding is Not Necessary

Before the computer revolution and the introduction of software based time tracking, rounding made it easier to add up timesheet totals by hand. But who does this anymore? Any web based time tracking service like ours adds up timecard totals automatically and accurately, to the minute.

Rounding Allows Employees to Game the System

Smart employees may figure out the ideal times to come and go, so that they get the most out of their punches in the least amount of actual time spent on the clock. As an example, consider an employee whose time is rounded to 15 minutes. He can arrive as late as 8:07 and get paid from 8AM. Likewise, he can leave at 4:53 and continue to get paid till 5PM. If he does this everyday, in the mornings, evenings, and at lunch, the company could be paying him for up to 30 minutes which he did not work each day. He’d be getting paid up to 5 extra hours on his bi-weekly paycheck!

For an employee earning $10 per hour, this can cost over $1300 per year. If you have 10 employees, the cost would be $13,000 annually. That is one expensive feature!


Another example of rounding is mealtime deductions. Employers can estimate the number of minutes an employee will be gone for lunch each day and have the system deduct that time automatically. The problem with this is that employees can work the system here as well. If someone is not present to watch employees come and go, they could be staying at lunch longer than they are supposed to while getting paid normally.

So why use it then?

Employers sometimes enable this feature because they anticipate pushback from their employees or because they want to take the load off their employees – new habits can take time to form. This can be great in some circumstances where employees are honest or continuously monitored but it should be used with caution. We tend to think it’s best to pay employees for exactly what they work, and not a penny more or less. You’ll have a clean hourly record, an audit trail of the exact time, and added protection from lawsuits. Rounding opens up the door to problems that are easily avoided.

Reconsider Using These Features

We include these features in our software because using them is, ultimately, an employer’s choice but we discourage it in most cases for the reasons listed above. One of the benefits of using a web based time tracking service is that it captures precise data. Time rounding and mealtime deductions can negate those benefits with respect to payroll, and blunt your ability to defend yourself in the event of a disgruntled employee.

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