Working time: Can I require staff to clock in and out?

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

August 09 2023

First published: August 9th, 2023
Last updated: August 9th, 2023

Irish employers have strict legal obligations under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

These legal obligations were actually introduced as a health & safety measure to ensure employees receive adequate rest and recreation.

One way to ensure your business complies with these working time rules is to operate a clock in/clock out system.

If you have a large workforce, field-based employees or a large facility where it’s hard to monitor working time, it could be difficult to keep track of when employees start and finish work.

So, let’s take a look and see if a clocking in system could be helpful to your business.

Helps business owners keep working time records

From an employer’s point of view, it’s important to keep accurate records to demonstrate your compliance with the working time legislation. The most common compliance issue that workplace inspections reveal is the failure by employers to maintain adequate records.

Payment of wages

Likewise, if an employee makes a claim for non-payment of wages, you will need evidence of the hours they worked along with any relevant annual leave or public holiday entitlements.

If employees are paid by the hour and have irregular work patterns, a clocking in and out system that is synced with payroll should reduce the risk of failing to pay the correct wages.

Allows management to focus on higher priority tasks

A clocking in and out system manages employee working time without the need for too much management intervention.

The clocking in system will identify employees who are consistently late and provide managers with evidence of a pattern of lateness if a disciplinary process needs to be carried out.

On the other hand, managers can also use a clocking in system to identify employees who may be taking on too much overtime or consistently working longer hours.

Employee resistance to clocking in systems

A clocking in system reduces the need for management intervention but there are also some HR issues to be aware of.

The main issue to be aware of is that the system only works if employees use it correctly. Employees may forget or intentionally opt not to clock in or clock out which throws your working time records out.

Depending on the type of system in operation, staff may abuse the clocking in system by clocking in on behalf of one another or recording shorter breaks than the ones they actually take.

The most up to date clocking in systems use biometric data like retina or fingerprint scans to ensure that the relevant employee is clocking in. Other systems rely on geotagging to confirm the employee’s whereabouts.

This can lead to employee concerns around how their private data is stored or otherwise used.

How to use a clocking in system

So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog, yes you can ask staff to clock in and out but there are some compliance issues to be aware of.

If your clocking in system uses biometric or location data, you will need to ensure that you have a compliant GDPR policy confirming how the relevant data is processed and any other legal purposes for which it might be used.

To ensure employees are aware of the clocking in and out requirements and your business is legally compliant, it can be useful to take the following steps:

  • ensure the employee handbook has a clear policy on clocking in and clocking out
  • ensure any data being processed by the clocking in and out system complies with data protection legislation
  • put signs at entry and exit points to remind staff to clock in and out
  • follow your disciplinary procedures if staff abuse or fail to use to clock in or out in line with the relevant policy.

Expert HR advice with Irish employment law compliance

Working time is one of the key areas of employment law that small business owners need to get right.

With the right approach, a clocking in and out system could be a useful tool for your management team.

For expert guidance on working time compliance or any aspect of Irish employment law, speak to one of our HR experts now on 1800 719 216

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