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What is Online Time Theft? How Can it be Prevented?


“Working life changed for millions of Canadians in 2020, when the pandemic forced organizations to send people home in a hurry.  Outside of the confines of traditional offices, employers may now find themselves tracking how employees spend their paid time.” – Tijana Martin, The Canadian Press.



Time theft is the fraudulent practice whereby employees dishonestly record hours they did not work, costing businesses valuable resources and productivity.

The practice takes several forms, such as falsifying timesheets, buddy punching, or engaging in personal activities during work hours.

This article examines the increasingly widespread issue of online time theft, emphasizing its negative impact on businesses and providing practical solutions like TimeWellScheduled.

Through the examination of real-life examples and proactive measures, readers will learn how to detect, prevent, and address online time theft.

Why Is Online Time Theft A Problem?

Online time theft is a significant challenge for businesses, eroding employer trust and wasting resources. With the rise of digital platforms and remote work, employees can indulge in non-work activities during business hours.

In addition, inaccurate time tracking due to online time theft skews performance metrics, disrupts project schedules, and affects payroll accuracy, impacting profits.

Addressing online time theft is crucial for businesses in order to uphold operational integrity, promote accountability, and prevent financial losses.

What Costs Are Associated With Time Theft?

Time theft presents a significant financial challenge for businesses. Consider a scenario where a company has five employees, each earning $15 per hour.

If each employee inflates their hours worked by an average of 1 to 4 hours per week, the business would incur an additional weekly cost of $75 to $300.

Annually, this could mean an extra expenditure of $3,900 to $15,600 in wages paid for unworked hours.

The Five Most Common Forms of Time Theft 

1) Falsifying Time Cards

This occurs when employees provide inaccurate data about their working hours, such as claiming to have worked more than they actually did. 

2) Buddy punching

Buddy punching is a  form of time theft that happens when an employee clocks in or out for a coworker, allowing them to falsely record their attendance. 

3) Unauthorized or Extended Breaks

Employees take longer breaks than allowed or without proper authorization, leading to time theft. 

4) Excessive Social Media Usage

Employees spend significant time on social media platforms during work hours, which detracts from their productivity and constitutes time theft. 

5) Personal Activities on Company Time

Employees engage in personal tasks or activities while on the clock, diverting valuable work hours away from their assigned responsibilities.

Excessive Social Media Usage

How TimeWellScheduled Solves Time Theft

TimeWellScheduled’s time and attendance system is designed to prevent time theft in organizations. The cloud-based system eliminates the opportunity for employees to manually manipulate their hours by automating time-tracking processes.

For example, with biometric data verification and GPS location tracking features, the system ensures that employees can only clock in and out when physically present at the designated work site.

This level of accuracy and accountability deters fraudulent activities such as buddy punching or falsifying timesheets.

Furthermore, TimeWellScheduled provides real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities, allowing managers to promptly detect any irregular employee attendance patterns. With access to detailed attendance records and audit trails, supervisors can identify instances of time theft and take appropriate action.

In addition, the system’s scheduling functionality helps optimize workforce allocation, ensuring that employees are assigned tasks reducing idle time that may tempt individuals to engage in time theft.

In short, TimeWellScheduled empowers businesses to maintain integrity in their time and attendance tracking, contributing to a culture of trust and accountability among employees while safeguarding against financial losses due to time theft.

Is Time-Theft Considered A Crime?


Time theft can be categorized as payroll fraud when an employee steals funds from a business by falsifying timesheets.

Also, non-unionized workers can be punished by their employers for committing time theft. Results include a team member being put on paid or unpaid leave and potentially terminated. 

United States

As of Spring 2023, there is no federal law making employee time theft illegal in the United States. Therefore, in most cases, time theft is classified as employee misconduct rather than a crime. However, an employee who commits time theft can still face severe consequences.

For example, employers can take disciplinary action, including termination. What’s more, if the employee orchestrated the time theft by falsifying their records or through some other fraudulent activity, they could face criminal charges. 

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, an employer has the right to discipline an employee for misconduct if the employee does not follow the company’s rules.

Thus, fining or terminating employees for time theft is legal so long as it is done per the company’s policies and procedures and with relevant employment laws.


“Time theft in the employment context is viewed as a very serious form of misconduct. Trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, especially in a remote-work environment” – Megan Stewart, BC Civil Resolution Tribunal.

Tips & Strategies to Help Prevent Time Theft

  • Implement Biometric Time Clocks: Use fingerprint or retinal scan technology to prevent buddy punching, ensuring that only the employees themselves can clock in or out.


  • Enforce Break Policies: Establish clear policies regarding break durations and monitor break times to prevent instances of extended breaks.


  • Monitor Internet Usage: Use software to monitor employees’ internet activity and restrict access to non-work-related websites, promptly addressing violations.


  • Utilize Time Tracking Software: Implement automated time tracking software to accurately record employee hours and detect discrepancies in reported hours.


  • Promote Accountability: Emphasize integrity in time reporting, communicate the consequences of time theft, and encourage employees to report instances of time theft.


  • Provide Mobile Access: Offer managers access to workforce management tools through mobile applications for remote monitoring and proactive management.


  • Limit Personal Activities: Establish guidelines for acceptable personal activities during work hours and promptly address instances of excessive personal time.


  • Conduct Regular Audits: Review time and attendance records regularly to identify patterns of time theft and ensure compliance with time tracking policies.


  • Educate Employees: Provide training on accurate time reporting and build a culture of integrity and transparency in time tracking practices.


  • Implement Clock in/out Policy: Set clear guidelines and procedures for employees to clock in and out accurately, including penalties for violations and regular audits to ensure compliance.

What Impact Will Eliminating Time Theft Have?

Eliminating time theft can vastly improve employee morale by reinforcing a fair and transparent workplace where everyone is held accountable for their actions.

When employees see that time theft is not tolerated, it promotes a sense of trust and equality among team members.


As remote work becomes the new norm, combating time theft will continue to be vital for businesses to maintain productivity levels, financial health and operational integrity.

Decision-makers will face increasing pressure to implement advanced time-tracking solutions like TimeWellScheduled, develop robust policies, and conduct regular audits in order to mitigate the risks and cost associated with time theft.

Moreover, building an organizational culture of accountability and transparency will discourage time theft while improving productivity and employee morale.


About TimeWellScheduled

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TimeWellScheduled is a secure online time and attendance software 100% tailored to meet your scheduling needs! In Addition, our cloud-based scheduling solution optimizes employee attendance tracking, simplifies payroll administration, and enhances staff management capabilities. Plus, our service is free for up to 10 employees!

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