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How Common is Employee Time Theft?

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Employee Time Theft

Some companies are a den of thieves. Employees steal from their employers due to general dishonesty, feelings of entitlement, and much more. The majority of employees admit stealing time from their employer by scrolling their phones during meetings, training sessions, or conferences. Others share company confidential information and documents with outsiders who can cause data breaches and so on.

Although some cases of employees theft are minor, others are more serious, so the management should stay up to date on how to handle any internal theft legally. Time theft is common in many organizations.

So then, the article will answer, how common is employee time theft? It will give you tips on how to uncover this type of theft and prevent it.

Is Time Theft Common?

Time theft involves getting paid for the time you didn’t actually work or for work you didn’t do. It’s an offense that has grown due to increased internet access and the remote workforce landscape. In fact, this form of theft causes organizations to lose a lot of dollars as a result of lost productivity. It’s also common because employees commit it while on the clock, and it’s not easy to detect without investing in some applications.

What is the Most Common Type of Employee Time Theft?

Socializing: The invention of smartphones and the internet is helping workers to steal time from their employers. Companies without cell phone usage policy reports reduced productivity and profits because their employees spend a lot of work time, checking personal email, sending text messages, chatting, updating their status on WhatsApp or reading their friends comments on Facebook, shopping online, operating their side hustle, playing games online, among others.

Extended Breaks and Lunches: Some people steal employers’ time by extending their meal times and breaks. For instance, a 30-minute break may be prolonged to 45 minutes, especially in companies that don’t clock out and in after lunch breaks. Smokers abuse smoke breaks by either taking them too frequently or extending the smoking time by a few minutes.

Time Card Fraud: Some employees exaggerate their time when completing paper timesheets, while others round down their minutes. There are some that interfere with the electronic timekeeping systems or cheat by punching out during the next quarter-hour.

Buddy Punching: One employee can punch in for many others who are late or in the office. Employees misuse manual timesheets because one person can sign for a friend or several friends when they arrive early or leave the office late. However, employers can combat buddy punching by installing advanced time tracking systems such as biometrics or other time clock systems in the market that read fingerprints, individual faces, and handprints.

Running Personal Errands: Employees might opt to take care of their personal errands during office hours. For instance, some people run their side business, make private phone calls, or attend personal appointments while on the clock.

How Do You Detect Employee Theft?

Automate Time Clock: Employees dishonestly log their time on paper timesheets, while some make excuses such as they forgot, misplaced, or loaned my swipe card when using time clock software. However, investing in a time clock system can help your company track productivity, monitor employees’ screens from time to time to ensure they’re not checking personal email, running a side business, or chatting with friends on social media.

Establish Clear Attendance Policies: Create attendance policies and communicate them to your employees. This ensures that your employees are aware of the existence of such policies and what they’re expected to do. In fact, you should give each staff a copy of the attendance policy and have them sign the document after reading and understanding it. Implement the disciplinary procedure when an employee violates the policy. This will help them take it seriously when they see how the company handles employee time theft cases.

Build a No Employee Time Theft Culture: Disciplining employees that violate the policy might scare them and, to some extent, demoralize them. However, having regular training sessions can help them become more engaged and build their morale. This will also help them be loyal to the organization and, as a result, avoid committing time theft.

Can an Employee be Dismissed for Theft?

Although time theft impacts productivity and profitability as well as violates the company’s policy, it’s not a federal crime because there is no such law in place. However, stealing from your employer is morally wrong and has a huge economic impact on the company.

In view of that, each organization should implement its own rules pertaining to time theft and use them when disciplining an employee that violates policy. Employees who use their employer’s time to run their errands or business can be dismissed after several verbal and written warnings.

Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at

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