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Understanding the importance of the time-card system

Employee time cards are an important part of a company's payroll system. Without them, it's impossible to know how much a person has worked. For most people, the time card is now digital, forcing you to clock in or clock out at the beginning and end of your shift.

Usually, employers have access to digital and paper time cards, creating a little bit of a problem. For example, if you come to work on time but forget to clock in, you could clock in late or ask your employer to clock you in. He or she will likely clock you in from the time your shift was supposed to start instead of the exact time you arrived. You may not think that's significant, but if you arrive 10 to 15 minutes early each shift, that will quickly add up over time.

What is the purpose of a time card?

The primary purpose of a time card is to track the hours an employee works. Time cards have other purposes as well including:

  • Avoiding underpaying employees
  • Avoiding overpaying employees
  • Avoiding punch rounding, which could hurt a company's budget
  • Keeping track of lost time and money
  • Being able to see who worked and at what time
  • Keeping accurate records of employees' work hours if an employer has to produce it for a legal reason

Modern time clock systems are online, which means that the employees clock in and out when they're present, not a moment sooner or later. Employers have a clock on most systems and rules about how early a person can clock in and how late a person can stay.

For most employees, a modern time clock system won't lead to problems unless the employer is physically going back and altering your clock-in and clock-out times. If you feel that's happening, it's a good idea to take a photo of yourself clocking in and out, so you know exactly how much you worked. If it doesn't add up, you can approach your employer about the discrepancy and potentially take the issue to court.

With paper time cards, there's a greater issue. With these, employees have to write down when they clocked in and out. There is a potential to forget to write down that you came and left work or to understate how much you worked. While it's easy to correct errors, your employer may not realize that a shift is missing from the card. However, he or she should be able to identify if you've been underpaid by looking at the schedule and when you were intended to work.

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