Biometric Time Clock: Complete Guide for Employers

Some companies are so into the honor system, they don’t even use a time clock.

Maybe it works for them. 

Or maybe they have no idea how bad it isn’t working for them.

Your business exists in a time when maximum flexibility is required in almost every industry. That means being able to adjust quickly to change. You can’t make solid adjustments without data. Hopefully, you don’t need to be convinced as to why you need to use a time clock. Time clocks give you crucial data.

Biometric time clocks provide even better data.

What Is A Biometric Time Clock?

A biometric time clock does away with the traditional time clock. Instead of using badges, punch cards, or PIN codes, a biometric time clock uses a unique body measurement when employees clock in.

That measurement might be a hand scan or a fingerprint. It might be measuring a vein pattern or hand geometry. It might be an iris or retina scan, or facial recognition. Whatever the device uses, the measurement it takes is unique to each employee and cannot be faked.

Benefits of Biometric Time Clocks For Your Business

Unfortunately, people are good at finding loopholes or ways to game a system. Traditional time clocks have made this easy. Biometric time clocks change all of that.

  1. Buddy Punching. Biometric clocks end the problem of “buddy punching,” which is when an employee punches in for another employee. Employers lose millions to this practice, and preventing buddy punching has always been a challenge.
  2. Hours Padding. They make it impossible for employees to “pad” their hours and add the extra time they didn’t work.
  3. Remote Workers. They also make it easier to manage remote employees. You can be assured that the employee is actually present when they say they are. Many systems work using a mobile device, so for companies that have workers across the world or out in the field, biometrics work well.
  4. Accurate Data. The accurate time records you’ll generate from a biometric time clock make it easier to audit and track unnecessary overtime, late or absent employees, or other related issues. Most biometric time clocks integrate into a system you already have. 
  5. End Manual Data Entry. If you haven’t made the step to automatic time clock systems, you’ll find that they also save you time manually entering time card data into your payroll system. The accuracy will be improved as well.

All of these benefits will help your bottom line and save you money.

Are Biometric Time Clocks Legal?

Some employees may not want you to collect their biometric data—and some states agree that there is a question of privacy rights.

The data you gather to identify each employee has been considered, in differing degrees, as intrusive and invasive in Illinois, Texas, and Washington. These states all have Biometric Information Privacy Acts (BIPA) that regulate how biometric time clocks can be used. Each of those states’ laws has different restrictions, use scenarios, and storage of data requirements in regards to biometrics. Some courts have also ruled in favor of employees who refuse to use biometric time clocks due to religious concerns. Labor departments have also interpreted current laws in ways that restrict biometric time clocks.

However, in many other states, biometric time clocks are allowed. Check with your state or a lawyer to find out if there are any restrictions to be sure you’re in compliance with current laws. Even if you have few restrictions, your company will want to define compliance and security measures regarding the handling of biometric data.

How to Use a Facial Recognition and/or Fingerprint Time Clock

Every biometric time clock system will require three basic things: the device, software, and a database of employees. The device collects the biometric data. The software converts that data to a digital format. The database stores the data.

That’s the basic setup all systems will have.

You can find a biometric time clock online, as a stand-alone device, quite easily. You may want to talk to your payroll or scheduling software provider to find out what devices they recommend and then choose from those options. Integration between the device and its software, and other related systems you’re using, is crucial.

Once you have the clock installed, now what?

Have a policy in place.

As mentioned earlier, be sure you have a comprehensive policy in place regarding your time clock. This policy should cover everything from data security to keeping surfaces sanitized to clock failures. Your employee training will include this information.

The solutions don’t need to be complicated.

For example, sometimes there are false negatives with biometrics. This commonly happens when the fingerprint reader can’t register the employee’s fingerprint due to dry, wet, or dirty skin. Provide wipes or hand sanitizer near the clock. Have an alternative clock-in option available in case of a repeated failure. Use geo-restrictions to limit where your employees can clock in if the fingerprint scanner won’t work.

Train your employees.

Provide training to every employee on how to use the clock. New employees will receive instruction as part of their onboarding, but those who already work for you will need training in the new system, too.

Part of your training should make sure employees know you are in compliance with laws and that you value and respect their privacy when it comes to how you store and use the biometric data. There may be some who are wary of a biometric system, so be willing to address their concerns.

Plan backup alternatives.

Be sure to have a backup clock-in system in case there are issues with initial use by employees and with integration with current systems. 

Systems with multiple built-in options will make this easy. If you opted for a stand-alone device, most biometric clocks will connect into your system like any other digital time clock, which means the device itself, while different, shouldn’t function all the much differently with your system. Having a backup option (e.g. PIN or ID card) is doable.

Best Biometric Time Clock

There are many options available, but choosing the best biometric time clock will vary for each employer. There are some general considerations that you can use to choose the right option.

  1. Software Integration. Be sure the time clock you choose will integrate with your current software. This includes what you use to run payroll and manage your schedule. It may also include human resources or other management software. If you are using a mix of biometrics and traditional time clocks, be sure the two systems will work together.
  2. Flexible Alternatives. Some full-featured scheduling and employee management systems, like When I Work, already have some biometric options built-in to their time clock systems using mobile devices and platforms that have facial recognition already available. This gives you the ability to be flexible in how you choose to have employees clock-in without having to purchase several stand-alone devices.
  3. Remote Access. Find a clock that connects and can integrate with your system using Wi-Fi. This will make it easier to access the data when it’s time to run payroll rather than having to go to every physical device to get the data. This is particularly important if you have remote workers or multiple work sites. If your biometric system struggles with your current network setup, it will be a constant headache for you and your employees.
  4. Scalability and Capacity. If your business is going to be growing or frequently changing in size, you want to be sure you have a system that can handle that fluctuation. Some systems limit the number of employees that can be registered to use the clock.
  5. Workspace Requirements. Some biometric clocks are built to withstand specific work environments. For example, a construction site will want a clock that can withstand dirt and the elements.
  6. Security Features. Biometric data must be protected. Between the collection of the biometric measurement to when it is converted to digital data, it should be encrypted. Look for a system that encrypts the data. You may want a system that can restrict which employees can clock in based on geographic areas. You may even want to require both a badge and biometric data when clocking in to ensure accuracy.

A proactive approach to choosing the best time and attendance software is the best strategy for your bottom line, for planning an accurate growth strategy based on solid data, and for employee morale. It’s better to work in an environment where you know that no one is cheating a system that makes it impossible.

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