What is time and attendance management? 

Time and attendance management describes the strategies, systems and tools you use to monitor and manage your employees’ time. 

You might use time and attendance systems – like electronic timesheets – to track working hours, including overtime, absences, vacation leave, and more. 

But it’s not just about tracking when your staff clock in and out. From ensuring compliance with labor laws, to running a payroll that’s accurate down to the cent, time and attendance management can make or break a business. 


Why is time and labor management important? 

Effective time, labor and attendance management can help your business: 

  • Control labor costs and secure data to inform workforce planning 
  • Maintain a more efficient and accurate payroll system 
  • Ensure compliance with federal and state labor laws  
  • Improve employee morale by ensuring fair and transparent labor policies 
  • Build trust with your workforce as you ensure fair compensation for their hard work

Featured Guide

Your guide to game-changing time and attendance management 

Believe it or not, the humble timesheet could be your ticket to exceptional workforce management. Discover how in this comprehensive free guide to time and attendance management. 

Employee timesheets: what’s changed?  

Timesheet management has changed significantly over the years, and we’ve come a long way from using mechanical punch clocks to figure out who’s worked when.  

Since those days, many organizations have switched from analog to digital using spreadsheets to manage shifts, and track time and labor. 

Today, electronic timesheets and software that links up with existing systems makes timesheet management even easier.  


What’s to gain from better time and attendance management? 

Just because your current time and attendance system is functioning, doesn’t mean you don’t stand to significantly benefit if it’s improved.  

And if you need some incentives to optimize time and labor management, check out some of the potential outcomes below. 

  • Boosting Productivity and Operational Efficiency

    The most obvious benefit of an effective time and attendance system is productivity. When you have a solid system in place, you can better understand workflow and identify bottlenecks.  

    With good data, you can optimize staffing levels, reduce customer wait times, and ensure everyone’s working at their best. 

  • Getting strategic about staffing

    An effective, joined up time and attendance system helps you manage your staff’s time more efficiently – this benefits both your organization and your employees. 

    With electronic timesheets and time management software, you can easily see where staff levels are too low. If left unresolved, this can lead to a drop in customer service. 

    Overstaffing isn’t much better. You’re not only wasting resources; your team’s morale and motivation are going to be negatively affected. 

    Effective time and labor management means noticing these potentially troubling trends and taking action to ensure they don’t repeat. 

  • Maintaining compliance with overtime

    A little bit of overtime can be great; businesses stay running and employees are compensated for going the extra mile. 

    However, you need to be compliant with federal labor laws to avoid financial penalties. As stated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), eligible employees must receive overtime pay (at least time and a half) for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. 

    Effective time and labor management helps you stay compliant and avoid costly mistakes. Some automated timesheet solutions can even alert you when an employee is about to run into overtime, so you can manage their shifts accordingly.  

  • Electronic timesheets cut down on manual admin

    When part of your time and labor management approach is making use of electronic timesheets, you and your staff can significantly cut down on manual admin and paperwork. 

    Electronic timesheet solutions can include: 

    • Reporting features, allowing you to collate data and analyze it quickly and easily 
    • Automated time and attendance tracking; for example, a system with GPS-enabled tracking makes it easier for employees working on the road to log their hours on site 
    • Self-service portals where staff can log their hours, check their shifts and hours worked, and submit requests to HR electronically. 


  • Cutting costs and making better informed decisions

    It may not be glamorous, but effective time, labor and attendance management helps you control costs and minimize unnecessary spending.  

    Labor is typically the highest expense for any organization. Without careful monitoring, labor costs can get out of hand – but an effective time and labor system can help you manage costs more effectively. 

    Being able to see, at a glance how labor costs have changed month on month gives you invaluable insight into your business. Plus, you’ll have the data you need to make better workforce management decisions. 

  • Enhancing employee satisfaction and boosting morale

    When your people know the system they’re working in is fair and they’re being compensated properly for their labor and expertise, morale goes up.  

    A fair and transparent time and attendance system – for example, an automated timesheet solution that logs everyone’s time accurately – also helps build trust.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Find out more about time and attendance tracking, including timesheet basics and what terms like “time theft” can mean in different contexts.  

Employers need to track the time their employees spend working so they can ensure their staff receive the correct payment for their labor. 

If an employer failed to accurately record when or for how long an employee worked, there’s a chance that the employee could be under or overpaid for their work. Monitoring attendance also ensures employers know if/when an employee is absent. 

Tracking the hours each employee works also ensures employers remain compliant with labor laws. For example, if an employee was to work over 40 hours in a workweek, those additional hours would count as overtime (which requires a higher rate of pay).  

Timesheet management (or time, attendance and labor management) is one of those functions you don’t tend to notice when it’s going well. 

However, if your time and attendance system is inefficient or poorly resourced, you’re going to hear about it. Here are some of the consequences you might encounter: 

  • Schedule clashes (e.g. over or under-staffing) 
  • Employees having to chase up pay discrepancies 
  • Decreased productivity due to low morale and/or time theft 
  • Increased administrative workload for payroll and HR  

In more extreme cases, employers may find themselves unable to defend against allegations of time theft or non-compliance with labor laws.  

A timesheet is a system or table of data which tracks the amount of time an employee has worked over a certain period. 

Timesheets are typically used to record the hours or days an employee has already worked (rather than dictated when they might work in the days or weeks to come).  

The word “timesheet” refers to the traditional method of tracking employee time; manually logging hours or days worked onto a paper timesheet. These days, employers tend to use digital formats, like computer spreadsheets or online time-tracking software, to maintain their timesheets. 

Electronic timesheets – sometimes referred to as online timesheets – describe the various digital time-tracking solutions employers use to record their employees’ time and attendance. 

An electronic timesheet might look like a digital spreadsheet, which employers can use to log the hours each employee has worked over a certain time period. It could also be an online time-keeping system that auto-calculates overtime, absence deductions, and more. 

Electronic timesheets and time-tracking systems are also used by employers to track time spent on specific projects or client work. 

An employer timesheet and an employee timesheet are two different terms used to describe the same function.  

Most frequently referred to as an employee timesheet, timesheets are a system used by employers to manage and track employee work hours, tasks, and projects. 

In a professional context, time theft occurs when either an employer or employee intentionally misreports the hours the employee has worked. 

When committed by an employer, time theft involves under-reporting the amount of time an employee has worked to avoid paying their full wage. 

When an employee commits time theft, they would typically inflate the amount of time worked to be paid a higher amount.  

Time theft is harder to commit when there’s a transparent timesheet system with automated checks in place. 

Buddy punching is a form of workforce time theft. Buddy punching occurs when an employee clocks in on behalf of an absent colleague. 

This might look like an employee clocking in with a swipe card and, at the same time, swiping their colleague’s card despite that colleague being absent. On the system, it would look like the colleague was working and therefore, they’d be paid for that time. 

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