What is buddy punching? + Ways you can prevent it

  • Nearly 75% of small businesses in the U.S. experience time theft, when a team member is paid for employee hours they did not work.
  • Employees often use “buddy punching” to commit time theft, which means a coworker clocked in for them when they haven’t started working yet.
  • An online time clock like Homebase takes a photo of the employee and provides unique pin codes, eliminating buddy punching.

What is buddy punching?

Buddy punching typically occurs when a coworker is running late or missed their shift and asks another coworker to clock them in. Buddy punching is done either to avoid reprimand for being late or avoid the loss in wages.

On the other hand, an employee can also steal time by asking a coworker to clock out for them when the shift actually ends if they need to leave a few minutes early.

And in the worst-case scenario, a coworker may even punch an employee’s time card if they can’t show up to the shift at all without using any paid time off or paid sick leave, or submitting a time-off request, meaning they would still be getting paid their hourly rate.

Note: There is an actual Buddy Punch Time Clock, or Buddy Punch App, that is a way to track employee time and is different from what is being discussed in this article.

Buddy punching is a huge money-suck for employers, especially those who use a manual time and attendance system like punch clocks. Using online timesheets that take a photo of the employee’s face as they clock in instead of using questionable facial recognition software or biometric time clock is the best solution to getting rid of the issue.

Time clock app punching in employee pin

Is buddy punching illegal?

In many cases, buddy punch time tracking can be considered payroll fraud and is grounds for termination, because the employee is getting paid for an amount of time they did not work.

Business owners can hold employees accountable for these actions depending on where the employee lives since they are technically stealing time. However, you as the employer can also suffer legally from your employees stealing time. If you run into a situation where an employee falls into overtime because they stole hours, you could face violating overtime laws.

For example, you could be violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for failure to pay overtime. The bottom line is that timekeeping is very important and getting buddy punch software, like Homebase, can help prevent loss of capital and employees.


“We grew so attached to Homebase that I almost didn’t switch to a better POS system because I was worried about not being able to integrate Homebase. Luckily, we were able to upgrade our POS and keep Homebase - best of both worlds!”

Marko Sotto

Owner at Barzotto

Work from anywhere using timeclock app

How do I prevent buddy punching?

The first step in preventing employees from helping each other steal time is to lay out a clear policy, which you can communicate to your staff using the Homebase Team Communication app. With the app, you can send policies and messages to your entire team and they’ll get it directly on tier mobile devices.

Make sure your entire employee base is clear on the rules and that if they clock in for co-workers, there will be consequences. Post signs to remind everyone so no one can use the excuse that they forgot.

To prevent buddy punching, employee time clocks with a wide array of features aimed at prohibiting employee time theft are the best solution. The Homebase Time Clock offers many tools that were created for this exact reason.

For starters, your employees will each receive their own unique pin code that no one else should be allowed to use to clock themselves in. Our time clock software even takes photos of the employee and logs the time, so that you always know who is clocking in and when. Additionally, we’ll send you an alert when an employee is late clocking in for their shift.

As for remote workers, we also have a GPS-tracking time clock that only allows them to clock in when they have reached the job site, meaning they won’t be able to clock in on their mobile device before they start working.

Buddy Punching FAQs

How do I stop buddy punching?

After implementing a clear policy against buddy punching, getting software like Homebase’s Time Clock feature, which gives each employee an unique ID and takes a picture of whoever is clocking in, can reduce and cease time theft like buddy punching. 

What feature prevents employees from being clocked in by another individual?

Time tracking software can go a long way to prevent buddy punching. Homebase has a Timeclock Feature that takes steps to prevent employees from clocking each other in and out. 

What do you call someone who punches in for someone else?

Buddy punching is a common term used for describing one co worker clocking in or out for another co worker. This is done usually to avoid being late, or making extra money while not working, both of which can be an extreme drain on a businesses resources.