Hey, can you sign in for me? The hidden cost of ‘buddy punching’ to ECEC employers

by Freya Lucas

January 14, 2021

Buddy punching – at first glance, this American terminology sounds vaguely sinister, and conjures up images of inappropriate conduct when taken in an employment environment.

 

Buddy punching is, in fact, a term that describes a practice that can affect up to 75 per cent of business, early childhood education and care (ECEC) included. 

 

The term means the process of having a teammate sign in for another employee, and often has an innocent beginning. An educator may walk through the door with their arms full of resources, and ask someone at the computer to sign them in. Leaders may see that educators are busy with children and families, and sign them on to or off a shift, thinking they are being a helpful colleague. 

 

However, over time, these instances can add up for employers. Research from the American Payroll Association (APA), for example, shows that 74 per cent of employers are experiencing losses due to buddy punching. In terms of money, this amounts to 2.2 per cent of gross payroll.

 

Buddy punching, research says, can impact the overall productivity of a team as well as compromising the accuracy of timesheets and payroll hours calculation. In a regulatory context, buddy punching has consequences for ratio logs, and incident reporting, when it comes time to determine who was working directly with children at any given time. 

 

In some cases, an employee who is running late to begin their shift may call the ECEC service and ask someone to log them in, to save time when they arrive, and allow them to go directly to working with children. 

 

Just as it is important for ECEC employers to meet their full entitlements in terms of providing overtime or time in lieu for activities conducted outside of working hours,  it is also important for employees to be accurate in recording their hours of service. 

 

Buddy punching can lead to lower employee morale. If some teammates clock in for one another, others may feel that they have to take the workload of the absent person instead. This can lead to frustration and a sense that dishonesty is tolerated.

 

It can also result in conflict between different groups within the team. If an employee decides to speak out about buddy punching to management, this can create a range of different issues. It can be perceived as a betrayal to colleagues, resulting in negative feelings toward one another.

 

There are a number of technology-based solutions to buddy punching, such as fingerprint scanners, password protected employee payroll programs, and a variety of other solutions. 

 

Ultimately, however, good communication with ECEC teams about the financial and regulatory consequences of not keeping accurate employee records will typically suffice. 

 

Further information about buddy punching may be found here

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