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Traditional Punching Method
The early pen and paper method as an employee attendance tracker involved the use of attendance registers and time sheets based on the time clock. To mark their attendance, employees needed to go to a central location, grab their time sheet or punch card from the holding spot, punch in, and place the card back, and do the same when leaving or taking breaks. The payroll employee gathered all the cards containing the punched details before payday to create paychecks.
Such a system was extremely inefficient and time consuming for both employees and human resources, and the scope for errors and fraud remained huge. The advantage of this system lay in its simplicity and its non-dependence on unstable technology such as computers and power supply. This method as such retains its relevance when the workplace is small and confined to a single location, and where the entry and exit are closely monitored to prevent swipe fraud.
Image Credit: flickr.com/Anibal Pees Labory
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Computer-Based Attendance Tracking
The development of technology and the proliferation of computers have brought in better ways of tracking employee attendance compared to the traditional time sheet methods. These systems are ether web based or application based and invariably entail use of a computer.
The most basic of such systems includes logging in with name and password or scanning a barcode on the employee ID card. Such systems, while minimizing the scope of fraud from the employee’s side, do not eliminate fraud.
Further developments in computer-based attendance trackers involve fingerprint and eye scanners. Such biometric time attendance systems safeguard sensitive environments from breach and eliminate the scope for employee fraud. The spread of the internet has allowed using smart phones as mobile time clocks to solve the problem of tracking attendance from distant locations or when on the move.
The major advantage of using computer-based employee attendance trackers from the human resources manager's perspective is that it automates the system and reduces the work of the human resources department, streamlining the process and reducing the scope for errors in a big way.
The system automatically captures the log in and log out time, allows automatic access to this data for the relevant departments, makes the calculation regarding wage and overtime, and even creates work schedules.
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Radio Frequency Identification Cards
The latest employee attendance tracking technology in vogue is the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Cards or smart cards. These tiny computer chips use electromagnetic energy in the form of radio waves to identify, track, and store information. Embedding the RFID chip in the employee's identity card, clothing, or under the skin is a foolproof way of tracking his movement, time, and attendance in a foolproof way.
While ordinary computer-based attendance trackers automate the process, they still require an action from the employee to trigger the record. The RFID chip revolutionizes employee time and attendance tracking by automating the entire process. This captures the required data automatically without the employee making any specific effort. RFID also allows tracking the real-time movements of an employee.
The RFID technology helps track time and attendance records in interactive real-time basis. It also provides for a host of other related applications in real time such as identifying tardiness and absenteeism, managing labor resources to reduce or eliminate overtime, and additional factors.
RFID also finds use for a host of other applications such as locating people in times of emergency and measuring employee behavior. Such uses can, however, attract charges of invading workers' privacy.
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The adoption of employee time- and attendance-tracking methods requires legal considerations.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to track and record non-exempt time and attendance in the prescribed format. A major concern of electronic systems, especially RFID cards, is to ensure compliance with FLSA provisions.
FLSA does not prescribe any particular method to track attendance, but some states have enacted legislation that limits the use of RFID in some contexts.
The importance of effective employee time and attendance tracking cannot be overemphasized. This function not just ensures effective human resource management and seamless operations, but also helps reward the prompt and punish the tardy, thereby promoting equity within the organization.