This is a guest post from Diane Aull. Diane is the Website Manager for Acroprint Time Recorder Company and editor of its Time for Business blog. Acroprint offers a full range of workforce management products including AcroTime, its flexible and powerful cloud-based solution.
With the news coming out of companies such as Yahoo and Best Buy recently, telecommuting has been back in the news. While these companies have chosen to scale back their telecommuting programs, working from home remains popular with employees and is offered as an option at many organizations.
Much of the debate about telecommuting has centered around productivity, collaboration and employee engagement. However, there’s an important aspect of any telecommuting program that seldom gets discussed — how to track employee time.
Performance versus Time Spent
I came across an article not too long ago in which the author stated work-from-home programs would mean “the death of the time clock,” because employers only needed to evaluate how well workers met their goals, not how much time they spent working on them.
The problem, of course, is that the author was confusing performance evaluations with payroll. Effective performance evaluations have always been about meeting or surpassing goals and not about simply showing up. On the other hand, payroll — especially for overtime-eligible employees — requires some form of time tracking.
No matter when or where the work is done… if an employee is eligible for overtime, the company must track the time the employee spends on the job. Otherwise, how are they to calculate properly whether (and how much) overtime is due?
In fact, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to maintain accurate, complete payroll records, including records of time worked, for all overtime-eligible employees.
Alternatives and Options
Many companies already have a telecommuting policy or are considering implementing this popular employee perk. How can you offer a telecommuting program and still maintain compliance with the FLSA?
Well, the law does not require you to track time for workers who are exempt from overtime. So you might choose to allow only exempt employees to work remotely, while your overtime-eligible workers must come in to the office where their time can be more easily monitored and recorded.
Problem solved, right? While this might seem like an easy solution, there are several issues to keep in mind:
- Employee morale: If some non-exempt or hourly jobs are otherwise suitable for a flexible work arrangement, employees in those jobs may become resentful when denied the opportunity you extend to exempt workers.
- Workforce quality: Higher-caliber workers may be inclined to migrate to companies that do allow them to telecommute.
- Other labor laws: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer “reasonable accommodations” to disabled employees. If an employee becomes disabled, and working from home would allow him to remain productive in his job, you may be required to offer him the option of telecommuting, regardless of his overtime eligibility status.
- Misclassification issues: If it turns out you have misclassified any employees as exempt when they should have been non-exempt — and those employees have been working from home, where you were not tracking their time — you could find yourself on the hook for thousands of dollars in back pay and penalties. Without any employer time records, the courts will rely on the employees’ own recollections or personal records, which might or might not accurately reflect the time they really spent on the job.
Modern Time Recording to the Rescue
The best option, of course, is to implement a time tracking solution that allows you to accurately record all employee work hours (exempt and non-exempt), no matter where the work is performed. As a bonus, automated time and attendance systems typically offer many cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits beyond the ability to record time for remote workers.
Consider, for instance, a cloud-based time recording system. Typically these systems can be accessed using an Internet connection and a web browser or via a smartphone app, enabling employees to easily clock in and out no matter where they are. Some also offer a telephony module that let employees clock in and out using any telephone, whether mobile or landline, or other options.
Like their employees, the supervisors and managers can access the system using a web browser, so they can review and approve employee time sheets no matter where or when they are working. The approved time is automatically totaled and can easily be exported to the company’s payroll system for processing. All high-quality service providers also process and store your information in highly secure data centers and keep regular backups, reducing your risk of data loss.
With a modern web-based time clock system, employers can offer their employees flexible work arrangements while still meeting their legal obligations to maintain accurate time records. It’s a win-win situation!
If you need an accurate solution to track work hours for your employees, regardless of their location, contact Acroprint at 1-800-334-7190 or visit www.AcroTime.com to learn more.
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