Time Keeping Tips: Rounding

The Problem

Does this sound familiar? Your employees arrive early for work, clock in, then spend the next half hour or more drinking coffee, chatting and waiting for their shift to start. Of course you want your employees to be on time, or maybe even a few minutes early arriving, but you don’t want to have to pay them to sit around and drink coffee.

The problem is, once your employees clock in, those hours show as work time. Which means under the law, you have to pay them for that time.

One solution you might consider is “rounding.” Acroprint time and attendance systems include this feature.

Rounding: Use With Caution

If you are considering applying rounding to solve your early-clock-in problem, you need to be careful! The configuration for rounding can be complicated.

The most common type of rounding is usually referred to as the “7/8 rule” or the “15 minute rule.” Here’s how it works:

Let’s say one of your employees is scheduled to start her shift at 8:00am. One day, she clocks in at 8:05am. Under this rounding rule, you must round the start time to 8:00am that day for this employee. (The law says you can’t decide only to round when the rounding is in your favor!) But what if she clocks in another day at 8:09am? That day, you can round her start time to be 8:15am.

As another example of the 7/8 or 15 minute rule: an employee’s shift end time is normally 5:30pm. The employee clocks out one day at 5:37 pm. You can round the employee’s stop time to 5:30pm. But if the employee clocks out another day at 5:38 pm, you must round so the employee’s stop time is recorded as 5:45pm.

Restrictions on Rounding

Federal law imposes important restrictions on how you can round employee time. In general, rounding is allowed only as long as the following criteria are met:

  1. The rounding must work both ways, both in the employer’s favor and the employee’s favor. You can’t decide to only round when it works out to your benefit.
  2. You cannot round in increments greater than 15 minutes. So if your employees are clocking in more than 15 minutes ahead of their scheduled start, you can only “round away” a maximum of 15 minutes of the coffee-and-chat time. You’ll still have to pay them for the rest.
  3. The rounding must be applied in such a way as the employee is still fully paid for all hours actually worked. If your employees are clocking in 10 minutes before their scheduled start time and actually starting work early, you cannot “round away” that work time, even though it occurred prior to the scheduled shift start time.

You should also check with an employment lawyer to see if your state has additional regulations regarding rounding. Remember, when there is a difference in Federal and state law, the one that “rules” is the one that’s best for the employee.

What If Rounding Isn’t Enough?

If you have a significant problem with employees clocking in or out at times other than their scheduled start and stop times, what you may need is an advanced time and attendance system such as Acroprint’s Pendulum Enterprise, which offers a lockout feature. This is a setting that prevents employees from punching in more than a set number of minutes before or after scheduled shift change times. Employees can continue to arrive early for coffee and conversation, but they can’t put themselves on the clock until it’s time to start working.