What Happens When Employees Commit Time Theft? | Is Time Theft a Crime?

TripLog Team

Businesses all around the world are devoting more time and money than ever to enhancing and optimizing their operational effectiveness. Time is money, after all, and a productive company can generate more in less time. 

Recent data, however, indicates that the most prevalent form of time fraud and workplace abuse - the employee time theft schemes - have a negative impact on more than 75% of US organizations.

Related: How Companies Can Prevent Time Theft (2023 Guide)

At first glance, random and occasional instances of buddy punching and time inflation may appear insignificant. However, stealing time from a job might be seen as a crime, just like stealing cash or property. What occurs if you steal time at work, then? Here is all you need to know about what it means to steal time from your employer and what will happen if you are discovered.

The Consequences of Employee Time Theft

Simply put, if you steal time from your employer, they may fire you and demand payment for the resources they lost. Employees who are detected stealing time will be compelled to reimburse their employer for the financial losses made, i.e., they will have to return the payment they received for the time they didn't work, because time theft can be on par with other sorts of employee crimes and occupational abuse.

Related: 6 Reasons Why GPS Time Clocks Are Essential For Small Businesses

There are currently no federal regulations that specify the consequences an employee who is detected stealing corporate time would face; however, future regulations affecting full-time employment may have an impact on this. Discipline policies and methods used by your employer will ultimately determine how you are disciplined in most situations.

What Does Time Theft Mean, Anyway?

Let's first examine the definition of employee time theft before discussing its effects. When an employee steals time from their employer at work, they are not being focused, are not present, or are not being productive.

Recent surveys show that roughly 45% of workers admit to arriving or departing a few minutes early or later than expected. The practice of inflating the number of hours worked may appear benign at first, but recent estimates indicate that it can cost businesses more than 7% of their annual payroll.

Hourly employees are considerably more likely than salaried employees to experience this type of workplace maltreatment. 

Related: The 10 Best SMB Employee Scheduling Software (2023)

But how can time theft happen, and what are some behaviors that employers might find unacceptable?

How Can Employees Commit Time Theft?

There are several ways in which time might be stolen. It's crucial to conduct a thorough investigation into employee habits in order for your company's HR department to determine the severity of the problem. Some of the ways that workers steal time are listed below:

  • Inflating their timesheet by clocking in early or waiting until their shift is over to clock out. 
  • Buddy punching is the deliberate act of getting a coworker or other employee to access the clock-in and clock-out applications on your behalf. This frequently occurs when an employee is late or intends to miss the entire workday. 
  • If an employee pretends to have worked during the time they were actually on a break, it may be considered time theft (including smoke breaks and unauthorized lunch breaks). To know what you are entitled to regarding breaks, be sure to check the laws and corporate policies. 
  • Time theft is the act of using work time for personal activities such as browsing the internet or using social media. Arranging personal calls, making appointments, checking personal emails, and working for another employer are additional activities that fit under this category.

Distractions, like time spent on social media sites and conversations that are unrelated to work, can be considered time theft by employees.

Can Committing Time Theft Get You Fired? 

If you're wondering if being found stealing time at work will result in your termination, the answer is simple: most likely. There are currently no state or federal legislation that outline the appropriate sanctions for time-stealing by employees.

Related: Employee GPS Tracking Laws | Can My Employer Track My Location?

However, each organization will have its own set of internal regulations and guidelines that might give you a good idea of what to anticipate if you are discovered to be working without authorization. 

Employees now have an additional tool to record accurate work hours, thwart buddy punching, and get rid of time theft thanks to today's simple time clock software for small firms. Employers still have a hard time substantiating that your claimed hours are incorrect, though. However, in a serious situation, your employer might sue you and charge you with attorney costs if they can demonstrate that you stole time and money from the business. 

What Can Happen If You Are Caught Committing Time Theft

If you are detected stealing time at work, you may be subject to a variety of disciplinary actions and unfavorable outcomes, such as pay restitution or demotion. Here are some of the most typical measures that employers use to catch workers who are stealing time.

Related: Benefits of GPS Time Clock Tracking For Employees Explained

  • Reduced compensation or a salary deduction because you were detected spending money outside of work 
  • Increased control and management of the workforce 
  • Reduction in salary or dormancy

Your employer may also opt to place you on probation or suspend you if your time theft scheme has caused significant harm or has been going on for a number of weeks. The worst-case scenario can involve you losing your job. 

How To Prevent Accidental Time Theft

Despite the fact that most stealing plans are deliberate, employees occasionally make mistakes that result in problems. You should take into account the following if you want to prevent time theft incidents:

  • Speak to your boss about the problem; firms are aware that their employees are the most crucial component of their business. If they observe a decline in output and bad morale, they may propose remedies like improved work-life balance, higher pay, and career prospects. Remember that contented workers typically exhibit fewer absenteeism and incidents of time theft! 
  • Review your company's policies so you are aware of what is expected of you and the potential consequences of time theft at work. Additionally, these regulations will describe what the business regarded as time theft. 
  • Work from home is here to stay, and businesses should adjust to this new way of working. Request time clock software that meets the needs of the organization. If you or your coworkers are having trouble keeping up with clocking in or out, think about requesting that your company implement a remote worker-friendly solution, such as PC time clock software or sector-specific apps like construction time-tracking apps.

Related: How to Track Employee Time Off | 4 Steps To Track Your Team's Holidays and Leave

Purchase a Personalized Time-Tracking App

As each business is different, so are the requirements of its personnel. At TripLog Time, we're dedicated to assisting workers in finding work-life balance through the use of the best timekeeping tools. Get in touch with us right now to discover the ideal option for you, your coworkers, and your business.