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What is Buddy Punching and How Do You Stop It?

Buddy punching, a friendly name for concerning practice, affects businesses all over the world. The practice damages firms of all sizes, from family businesses to international conglomerates. Some estimates put buddy punching’s yearly cost to the US economy well over $350 million.

In Britain, it costs many firms tens of thousands of pounds and can even burn around ten per cent of their revenue. These deficits can make the difference between business success and stagnation. In competitive industries, businesses need every advantage to survive. Understanding and preventing buddy punching, therefore, proves essential for efficient, streamlined, and successful firms.

buddy punching

What is Buddy Punching?

Also known by names like time theft and time fraud, buddy punching occurs when colleagues fraudulently clock each other in and out of work. The simple act of extending a shift inflicts wide-spreading impacts on businesses, from finances to morale. At its core, buddy punching rewards cheating, as companies spend money on absentees. Funding bad practices and investing in failure, buddy punching demands fixing to save a business from within.

How Does it Work?

Buddy punching tactics vary by workplace and their time and attendance systems. In places with old-school paper rotas or punch cards, ‘buddies’ punch colleagues in when they’re late for work or when they leave early. This event occurs when they’re not there at all. On digital password or scanner systems, employees trade passwords or swipe cards, covering their non-punctual colleagues and sapping resources from the business.

Who Does it Affect Most?

Again, buddy punching affects a broad range of industries and depends on attendance systems.

Companies with large pools of employees, few managers, and low company morale often fall victim to the worst cases of buddy punching. These include manufacturing warehouses or large offices suffering diseconomies of scale. However, as smaller firms lack the resources to combat buddy punching, it occurs there too. Worst of all, once buddy punching starts, it often spreads like wildfire.

The Common Causes of Buddy Punching

Poor Time and Attendance Systems

Time and attendance systems, the first line of defence against buddy punching, often miss small errors when confined to paper and memory. Cumbersome paperwork provides kindling for the buddy punching wildfire. Handwritten rotas and attendance forms often lead to mistakes in payroll and holidays. Disgruntled or curious employees then exploit these systems to cheat on their shifts through buddy punching.

Unprofessional Workers

Whether they fall out of love with the job or hide their disorganisation through job interviews, some employees are not as punctual as they seem. Management may never notice the discrepancies when their colleagues cover up their mistakes and intentional absences with buddy punching. Employees may leave early, with other priorities, or due to boredom. They may arrive late due to tiredness, unpreparedness in the morning, or a hangover.

Either way, buddy punching hides these issues, and the business bleeds resources. Covering these misdemeanours also means that management cannot get involved in protecting vulnerable employees who need support.

Lax Company Ethos

Some employees genuinely never learn about buddy punching’s impact on themselves or their employers. Confusing policy or non-committal managers may deprive workers of the clarity needed to avoid buddy punching. Also, when colleagues get away with buddy punching and get rewarded for it, this encourages the practice. This builds a buddy-punching culture, and secrecy, deception, and mistrust fester between employees and employers.

Buddy Punching’s Impact on Businesses

Bad for Customers

All businesses owe their futures to their customers and clients. Beyond their employers, buddy punchers also let these customers and clients down by devaluing goods, services, and precious time. Buddy punching decreases the quality and timeliness of a business’ produce. This leaves customers unimpressed, short-changed, and less likely to return.

Bad for Employees

Even if undiscovered, buddy punching can lower employee commitment and sever them from managerial support. The practice devalues business hours, making shifts seem pointless and unappreciated. When discovered, buddy punching also jeopardises careers and risks terminations. Either way, it increases employee churn and sours working environments.

Bad for Businesses

Of course, buddy punching wreaks severe consequences on business finances and work rate. Even 15-minute additions here and there add up over weeks and months and years. Multiplied amongst the workforce, this practice derails business trajectories and flattens firms. While the millions wiped of national economies might seem distant and abstract, the destructive impacts on individual companies require urgent management to protect their futures.

How to Stop Buddy Punching

Adjusting Policy

Clarity and communication fix many workplace problems, including buddy punching. Employers can address the issue openly, warning workers at the point of hiring and increasing accountability with zero-tolerance policies. Attentive managers and reliable rotas all help to ensure the right people are needed in the right places. Firms update their time and attendance systems to streamline workflows and cut down on buddy punching.

Revitalising Time and Attendance Systems

Digitising time and attendance systems offers business benefits beyond error-prone paper and punch card setups. Smart solutions help businesses plan their rotas, support their workers, and nip buddy punching in the bud. The systems help employers to praise punctuality and hard work and discover buddy punching before it derails a company’s work rate.

Biometric Integration

Biometric time and attendance systems eliminate buddy punching altogether. Using biological characteristics like facial appearances or thumbprints, biometrics verify employees for each shift. This technology also curbs buddy punching with cloud accessibility and GPS locations. Digital integration creates capable and future-proof firms with efficient, future-proof working environments.

Fostering Satisfaction and Trust

These technologies and policy changes, while combatting buddy punching, also build a more transparent company culture. Punishing buddy punching only treats symptoms, not the issues’ causes. Clear, accountable, and communicative attendance systems help employers and employees build trust as they eliminate buddy punching. Improving employee satisfaction and honouring earned absences helps prevent buddy punching for good.


Buddy punching creates huge, systemic issues within firms, industries, and economies. It, therefore, requires a systemic solution to solve it. Modern time and attendance systems change buddy punching’s causes and consequences, helping businesses and workers alike create productive and cooperative futures.

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