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Time and attendance systems are used to record and track employee attendance and hours worked. They are often integrated with payroll, scheduling, and job costing systems that determine hourly rates, assign tasks, and compare estimated vs. actual times. Some time and attendance systems can determine an employee’s accrual of vacation and sick time, or include additional features for paid time-off tracking. Other systems enable managers to schedule multiple shifts and paid breaks, and to view reports that calculate labor costs and indicate which employees are at work and on which tasks. Time and attendance systems have software and/or hardware components, and may be designed for general use or by specific industries. 

Types of Time and Attendance Systems

There are many different types of time and attendance systems. Choices include mechanical time clocks, electronic time clocks, and biometric time clocks. Mechanical time clocks are devices at which employees punch time cards to clock-in or clock-out of a shift, or to take a break or go to lunch. Electronic time clocks are keypads that allow employees to enter their identification numbers. Data is transmitted over a company network or the Internet, typically with a communications protocols such as Ethernet or universal serial bus (USB). Biometric time clocks eliminate the “buddy punching” that can occur with mechanical or electronic time and attendance systems. Instead of punching a time card of entering a numeric code, employees must insert a hand or finger into the reader. This forces each employee to enter only his or her own information. 


Time and attendance systems include badge/swipe time clocks and wedge readers. Proximity badge systems are electronic time clocks that require employees to swipe an identifying badge instead of entering a numeric identifier. They may provide TCP/IP connectivity for a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN), and export data to external payroll applications.  Features include radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and the ability to store records for thousands of employees. Wedge readers are keyboard interface readers that attach as a second keyboard between the computer and a standard keyboard. These time and attendance systems permit barcode reading without software changes that may require system downtime.