Prevent Buddy Punching with Employee Authentication

Buddy punching is a form of time theft that is common among hourly workers. An employee gets another employee to clock-in for them when they are late or absent. Learn how you can prevent time theft and authenticate employee hours.

What is Buddy Punching?

Buddy punching is a form of time and wage theft that is common among hourly workers. An employee gets another employee to punch the time clock for him (or her) because they are late or absent. This allows the deceitful employee to mislead their employers by overstating hours worked and take pay for time or work not done.

Employee Authentication Methods

Time & attednance systems use a variety of methods to verify the identity of the person who is clocking in. Some ways are better than others, and combining multiple ways provides for stronger authentication of the employee.

All forms of authenticating people rely on one or more of these 3 approaches:

  • Something you know
  • Something you have
  • Something you are

Something You Know

Something you know (e.g. passwords, PIN) is the most common kind of authentication mechanism based on having the employee remember something and not disclose it to anyone else.

Unfortunately, while these systems are good at preventing a “bad guy” from impersonating a user (for example, to get access to a bank account), they fail where people collude to fool the system. Passwords and PINs are shareable and the system will allow clock-ins as long as the information is correctly entered.

Something You Have

Something you have (e.g. keys, RFID or proximity cards, and smart cards) relies on the employee always possessing the assigned object.

Similarly, these objects are shareable and an employee can easily carry another employee’s card, for example, to clock-in.

Something You Are

Something you are (e.g. fingerprints, retina scans) is based on what the employee is. This relies on something about the employee that does not change, like a fingerprint.

Yes, it is harder to fool a biometric device – as long as the initial biometric readings are correctly setup and the biometric device is secure against tampering or misuse. For example, if no one is supervising the biometric device, a simple internet search will reveal multiple ways to beat fingerprint biometric readers.


To improve authentication methods, you can increase the security by “layering” techniques. However, it also adds to the cost and introduces more user errors. Sensors on biometric readers can fail due to dust, oil, or a simple band-aid on a finger. Replacing RFID cards or rekeying locks can be costly and take some time. Forgotten passwords typically don’t cost anything, but can be time-consuming. There is overhead in handling these errors and typically cause someone to spend time to solve.

You can still prevent buddy punching without needing authentication methods. The best way to do this is by setting expectations and a culture of respect, trust, and integrity from all staff. This way, employees remain honest, responsible, and transparent. You can also enforce this expectation by outlining guidelines in employee contracts or handbooks. By using these methods, you can eliminate buddy punching at a far lower cost and improve your bottom line.

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