What Happens if You Forget to Clock Out?
In 2020, there were 73.3 million hourly workers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re among the millions of hourly employees, you understand the importance of proper time tracking.
Your employer and yourself need to track your clock-in and clock-out times to ensure accurate paychecks.
But what happens if you forget to clock out?
Often, it’s not intentional – it can accidentally slip your mind on occasion.
At other times, it can be intentional due to the dislike employees tend to show towards time tracking systems.
This is due to the misconception that implementing time and attendance systems show a lack of trust in employees.
What Clocking Out Means
To clock out simply means to record your time of departure from work.
This indicates to your employer that you have ended your shift and left work.
From the employer’s perspective, it signifies when you actually finished work and will help facilitate payroll processing.
An effective way to ensure you receive accurate pay is using a time tracking system.
Such tools also allow an employer to monitor who is on time and who didn’t report to work.
Generally, if you forgot to clock out, you’ll have to clock out before clocking back in.
Why Is it So Important to Clock in and out?
It’s crucial to adhere to your company’s clock in and clock out rules for several reasons:
- Accurate payment. This one’s obvious since the time tracking and attendance system allows you both to accurately track hours worked so you get paid what you’re entitled.
- Clocking in and out is essential for safety reasons. Your employer and emergency services will know exactly who is in the building in case of an emergency.
- Helps employers curb cases of time fraud to avoid paying for hours that weren’t spent working.
- Employers use time tracking solutions to monitor employee absence and lateness. This can help ensure certain employees aren’t overworking because their coworkers didn’t show up.
What Happens if You Forget to Clock Out?
Failure to clock out at the end of your shift leaves the clock running, which means your timesheet will log hours you didn’t work.
Say you clocked in at 9.00 am and left work at 5.00 pm.
Normally, you’d have worked eight hours.
However, since you forgot to clock out, the clock will continue running until the next day.
That means your timesheet will indicate 16 extra hours, which your employer must pay.
Failure to report this inaccuracy to your employer can land you in trouble.
It could also be a problem for your employer as it could be seen as if they overworked you.
That’s why clocking out is crucial for both you and your employer.
Some employees, especially those who leave early, may use this tactic to cover up their scheme and still get paid for the time they weren’t at work.
When employees play the system, it’s termed “time theft” and can take several forms:
- Failing to clock in or out intentionally to exaggerate hours worked
- Taking longer breaks than permitted
- Trying to cover up late clock in or clock out
- Buddy punching, which has negative financial implications for over 75 percent of companies
When an employee neglects to clock out, it can lead to several downsides:
If for some reason, an employer fails to detect time clock errors such as a worker who was clocked in two days ago, it will mean they have to pay the employee unearned overtime.
In case the employer disputes these hours, it might lead to federal law getting involved since the law requires an employee to be paid all worked hours, whether they clocked in or not.
Overpaid or underpaid work
An employee can intentionally neglect to clock out to exaggerate the number of hours worked so they get paid more.
Sometimes, it might lead to underpayment.
Since the employer has to take the employee’s word for it, they might end up with huge financial losses.
When such cases arise, the employer will need to investigate the matter.
This might involve reviewing the security footage, checking discrepancies, and so forth.
All these will take time that would otherwise be spent on more useful activities.
Can I Get Fired for Failing to Clock Out?
Usually, employers are strict on your punch times to avoid being on the wrong side of the state’s overtime law.
Sometimes, the employer can understand if you forget to clock in or out, especially if it’s the first time, and might issue a verbal or written warning.
However, if you’re a repeat offender, you’re more likely to get fired since it may signify insubordination.
If there’s proof of fraud, with evidence indicating that you falsified time cards to work less or get paid more, then chances of getting fired are high.
What Does the Law Say About Clocking in and out?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that employers keep a record of the hours worked by their employees.
“Every covered employer must keep certain records for each non-exempt worker. The Act requires no particular form for the records, but does require that the records include certain identifying information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The law requires this information to be accurate.”
Some employers wonder if it is legal to dock the pay for workers who fail to clock in or out or withhold the payment entirely.
The short answer is no. Each state has its own unique laws.
But generally, regardless of whether they forgot to clock in or not, an employer must pay employees for the exact number of hours they have worked.
What Disciplinary Actions Can Employers Take for Failed Clock Ins?
As an employee, you have the obligation to clock in and clock out as required by your employer.
Doing so provides tangible proof of work and is necessary for eliminating time clock errors.
However, if you forgot to clock in or out, it will create conflicts with your employer and you may face disciplinary action.
While the law is clear that all employees must be paid for hours worked, it doesn’t mean you should let this issue slide.
Employees must be held accountable for their time, and measures should be taken to prevent failed clock ins and outs.
Employers can use various measures to reinforce the importance of clocking in and out.
Here are a few suggestions to consider:
1. Establish a Clock in/Clock Out Policy in Your Employee Handbook
Consider setting clear rules and policies regarding time clock issues, clearly stating what to expect if an employee forgets to clock out.
These policies should be included in the employee handbook, and any changes made to it should be communicated immediately.
The policy can touch on factors like:
- How and where employees should clock in and out
- Which clock-in clock-out system they should use
- How to use the time and attendance system to signify breaks
- How early or late an employee can clock in and out
- Overtime rules
- Lunch break
- Unpaid breaks
- Timesheet rounding practices used by the company
The policy should also include the protocol for repeat offenders and how they should report missing clock-ins.
In addition, set the procedure for repeated failure to follow the rules. For example, the protocol can follow this guideline:
- Verbal warnings
- Written warning
2. Teach Employees the Importance of Clocking in and Out
When everyone on the team understands the importance of using time tracking and attendance systems, they may be more inclined to use them. Some of the benefits include:
- improved work efficiency
- accurate paychecks
- better workplace culture
- better organization
- increased convenience
- improved transparency
3. Follow Through with Disciplinary Actions
The policies won’t be effective if you don’t apply the disciplinary actions as stipulated.
More importantly, the policy must apply to all employees regardless of their history with the company or performance rating.
Any preferential treatment won’t be taken kindly by coworkers.
To prevent employees from making this mistake, show how serious you are about time and attendance from day one.
And make sure you’re consistent in reinforcing the action.
How Traqq Can Help You Clock in and Clock Out on Time
Are you using a clock-in system, but time clock errors keep appearing?
You might want to consider switching to a more reliable tool.
If you’re still using manual time clocks and timesheets, investing in automated time tracking software will help resolve these errors.
A modern time clock app like Traqq can help you deal with the issue of forgetting to clock in or out once and for all.
For starters, you can clock in and out from any location, even when offline.
You can later review insights like the duration of your breaks, your activity levels, and which websites and apps you used while working.
This intelligent time tracker sends smart alerts and notifications to ensure hours are logged accurately.
If you step away from your computer while the tracker is running, you’ll get an alert that your PC is idle for too long, and you should keep working.
Similarly, if you start working but forgot to turn the tracker on, it will notify you to do so as soon as it detects activity.
Furthermore, you have the option to add time manually and specify the reason for adding the time.
This way, you can account for all the hours worked and be compensated accordingly.
The tool also allows you to customize alerts and notifications.
For example, you can set it to notify you of every hour you’ve worked.
That way, you can remember to take regular breaks to prevent getting burned out.
Traqq protects you from missing unrecorded and billable time, thus ensuring you receive accurate paychecks every time.
Investing in an online timesheet will resolve time clock conflicts with your employer.
Apart from capturing your activity and performance levels, it takes screenshots that can act as proof of work.
Look for a tool that’s easy to use and reminds you to clock in and out. That way, you won’t ever forget to clock out.