Definition of Time and Attendance Recordkeeping

automating time and attendance

Time and attendance recordkeeping is the documentation, and retention of those documents, of the hours and days employees worked. It is specific to nonexempt employees to ensure they are paid appropriately.

What is time and attendance recordkeeping?

Time and attendance recordkeeping is mandated by the Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure nonexempt employees are accurately paid for all hours and days worked. This includes tracking not only their regular rate of pay but also that all overtime hours are captured and paid at 1.5 times their regular pay rate.

The DOL requires that all time and attendance records are retained for 2 years and paystubs for 3 years. However, various states may have longer retention requirements. California, for example, allows a look back as long as 4 years. This includes time cards, proof of payment, and deductions. These records must include:

  • The employee’s legal name, date of birth, sex, and social security number
  • Their physical address, including their zip code
  • The official job title
  • When the workweek begins and ends, providing the exact time and day of the week
  • How many hours the employee works each day, the delineation of the number of those hours that are straight-time and overtime, and the cumulative for the workweek
  • The employee’s standard hourly pay rate and the basis on which pay is determined, i.e., $12.50/hour, $500/week, etc.
  • Any additions (bonuses, vacation or sick time) or deductions (docked time, unpaid absences) from the employee’s wages
  • The dates the pay period covers and the total amount of wages paid during that pay period

You, as the employer, must also be sure that the records are reasonably accessible to any local, state, or federal DOL representative who may request access.

Why is time and attendance recordkeeping important to your business?

The Department of Labor defines the employee’s workweek as all of the time an employee is required to be on:

This means the employee’s “workday may therefore be longer than the employee’s scheduled shift, hours, tour of duty, or production line time.”

Maintaining accurate time and attendance records is critical for you and your business. Not only do you risk reputational risk for failure to prove you are correctly paying your employees, but a disgruntled employee can file a wage claim with the local, state, or federal department of labor. This opens you up to intense scrutiny that extends beyond your time and attendance recordkeeping processes.

What is the history of time and attendance recordkeeping?

While tracking the time people worked is as old as the ages, the first quasi-automated system of using a time-clock punch system goes back to the 1880s. This process had a 2-fold purpose.

To protect:

  • It ensured that their employees were working as scheduled and present when they were expected to be there.
  • This gave employees a record of when they were present and working at the facility so the employers could not cheat them out of earned wages.

In the 1990s, time tracking evolved to a more automated process as commercial time clock software made its first appearance in the workforce scene. Today, time and attendance recordkeeping is much more sophisticated, allowing employees to use their computers, tablets, and even smartphones.

Nonexempt: An employee who is not exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA or state law.

Exempt: Employees who are excluded from minimum wage and/or overtime pay regulations. Exempt employees typically include salaried executive, administrative, and professional employees.

FLSA: A federal law that governs minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and recordkeeping rules and regulations for most U.S. workplaces.

Independent contractor: A business owner who provides their own equipment and tools, decides when and how they will get work completed, and determines which projects to accept.

Time rounding: The practice of rounding an hourly employee’s paid time to the nearest 5 minutes, 6 minutes, or quarter-hour based on traditional rounding rules. For example, if you round to the nearest 15 minutes, the time clocked between 0-7 minutes would round to the previous 15-minute marker. Time clocked between 8-15 minutes would round to the next highest 15-minute time marker.

Time and attendance recordkeeping summary

Time and attendance recordkeeping means documenting the hours and days that nonexempt employees have worked. It is mandated by the Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure nonexempt employees are accurately paid for all hours and days worked.

Similar glossary definitions you must know

  • Job analysis: The process of analyzing a job to understand the duties and responsibilities involved, how the job compares to other positions, what qualifications are needed to capably execute the job, and the working conditions under which the job is performed.
  • Job classification: The process of assessing the scope, duties, responsibilities, and complexity of a job to determine the most appropriate rank and job title.
  • Job evaluation: The process of comparing a job’s responsibilities against others in the company and the competitive market to determine the job’s market value
  • Market pricing: Using the information gathered during the job evaluation process to determine how comparable jobs are paid. Typically independently, published market studies are used for this process.

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