How To Prevent Buddy Punching

What is buddy punching?

Buddy punching is the act of one employee falsely registering the arrival or exit of another employee. This leads to the employer paying them for longer than they should, and so it is actually a form of wage theft.

There can be many different reasons why the particular employee will not clock their real entrances and exits, but no matter what the reason you shouldn’t allow it to happen. A study cited by OnTheClock suggested that buddy punching has cost American companies nearly $400 billion per year, and it adds up quickly to hours of wasted unproductivity too.

History of buddy punching

The term comes from the early-to-mid-twentieth-century practise of using “punch cards” to record worked hours in a factory environment. An employee would pull a lever on the time clock upon entering and exiting the factory, and the day and time would be “punched” onto a card.

It’s also called buddy clocking, from the similar sense of “clocking in” (registering arrival using a mechanical clock) which was first recorded in 1914.

Preventing buddy punching

At the most basic level, to stop buddy punching you need to remove employees’ ability to use each other’s credentials. (It is also a very good idea to update your employee handbooks and have a chat with them to let them know that you are aware of this practise and do not approve.)

There are several ways to restrict employee credentials to one-person usage. A lower priced option is to start using RFID smart-cards. These will work because they have to be near the card reader to register. If someone is running late, they cannot get a friend to clock them in using their card unless they pre-planned and gave their card to their friend the previous day or left it on their desk.

This may still seem insecure, but it is better than clocking in using just a PIN or password, since in that case the late employee can just tell their friend or co-worker the necessary details.

However, the most effective solution is biometrics. Biometrics is the method of  using the measurements of people’s physical characteristics in order to identify them.

These range from the simple size and shape of hands to the highly complex behavioural measurements of everything from the way you walk to the way that you use your mouse and keyboard. A common mid-point option used to measure time and attendance in the workplace is fingerprint biometrics.

No matter which option you choose, they are all very, very difficult to fake. While deceiving biometric scanners isn’t impossible, it would require sustained effort and research. Certainly faking would not be easily available to someone frantically texting their friend about running late.

Aftermath of buddy punching

Once you have removed your employees’ ability to clock in as each other, you will start forming a fuller picture of the lateness and other timekeeping issues in your business or department.

When you know the true facts, you will be in a better place to discuss issues with the individuals involved.

After all, great management isn’t about the data that you collect, it’s about interpreting the data and choosing to act upon it in the appropriate way.


Here at Time and Attendance UK, we can provide you with either hand geometry biometrics (which measures shape and size of the hand) or fingerprint biometrics. Both have their advantages – fingerprints are a newer technology and more accurate but hand geometry is great for environments such as a bakery or construction site where employees’ hands get too dirty or damaged for fingerprints to show accurately.

Our attendance readers can also register PIN numbers and passwords as well as biometrics, so that we can provide the ultimate security of 3-factor authentication. You can even connect the readers with access control readers, allowing companies to manage attendance and security on the same central security network.

Take charge of your workforce today, and contact us with any questions.