Behind a friendly-sounding term of “buddy punching” looms a fraud that menaces multiple companies, causes millions of dollars of losses and reinforces the stereotype that there is a constant distrust between the employees and employers. And the practice roots to the razor-sharp wits of Halbert Powers Gillette.

Born in the second half of the XIX century, Halbert Powers Gillette was a renowned American engineer and business theorist focused on civil engineering. Apart from his construction works, he published multiple books, both on the construction itself, and all the back office.

In one of them, he praised time clocks as devices “of immense value” when it comes to calculating the working time of an employee in an office or a shop. Among the advantages of the device, Gillette named it a much easier calculation of the working time, no need for control from the supervisor, and much automation in the process.

What he probably didn’t predict in his enthusiasm is a fraud unseen before the automation era he so strongly evangelized – the buddy punching.

What is buddy punching – definition

“Buddy punching” describes the situation when one employee asks his or her colleague to clock in or clock out on his or her behalf. It can be done either to obfuscate the tardiness or amass the fake over hours. It can be done by asking the employee who arrives first to clock in the rest of the group or ask the one who leaves last to clock out his or her buddies.

All is of course done until the manager finds out.


Is buddy punching illegal?

Buddy punching seems like nothing harmful, yet it is a fraud. With most employers having strict policies on tackling frauds, being caught in buddy punching can result in immediate termination. If buddy punching has been done on a larger scale, for example, if the manager tuned up the timesheets of his or her team, the case can be moved further to the court.

According to Forbes quoting American Payroll Association, buddy punching affects more than 75% of American companies. An average employee steals approximately 4.5 hours per week. It equals coming out of work nearly one hour earlier every day.

How to avoid buddy punching

Buddy punching on the timeclock is a high risk with a disputable reward. One cannot amass multiple hours of over hours based only on buddy punching. When caught, there are two employees punished – the puncher and the punchee. Still, the practice is prevalent and only the systemic approach can free the company from it.

Basically, there are two mutually supporting strategies tackling buddy punching available – human resources-related and tech-related.

Tackling buddy punching with HR policies

While it is tempting to go to the open war with buddy punching, the practice is rooted both in the employees’ willingness to tune up their working hours and the approach of the employers. The first step is to make the time theft and buddy punching avoidable by making it unprofitable or too risky regarding the possible benefits.

Build a transparent culture

Buddy punching is a form of building the “employee camp” vs. the “employer camp”. In a fully transparent and friendly company, all employees know that the company is one big team, working together to achieve the shared goal. If there are policies or customs that build distrust or make things foggy in the company, it is crucial to wipe them out.

Set fair expectations

Employees are people, with all their strengths and weaknesses, families, health, and will to have a work-life balance. An unforgiving and relentless approach toward the timesheet is counterproductive. If there is a more human approach toward the employee and the overall feeling of security, employees wouldn’t be so eager to buddy punch. It is much different to cheat an unforgiving tyrant or a nice guy who works like a boss.

Enhance accountability by delivering tech tools

The company can stop buddy punching by delivering new, more convenient, and reliable tools to clock in and out. While traditional time clocks were praised by Mr. Gillette, they were top class nearly a hundred years ago. With modern technology like Calamari, employees can be granted more levels of autonomy, enabling them to work partially from home, split their working time or manage their day in a more flexible way. Depending on the nature of the work to do, it can take multiple forms, yet every time it encourages the team to share the root cause of the potential buddy punching and discuss it with the manager instead.


Tackling buddy punching with tech solutions

Apart from building a more friendly and open culture, sometimes it is necessary to impose means of control in the company, especially if the relations between the employees are more distant or there is a huge share of temporary workers in the workforce.

Calamari comes with multiple ways to prevent the buddy punching in the company and contradict the potential ways of committing this type of fraud.

Making a photo of the employee

If Calamari is available in a kiosk mode, the admin can set that there is a photo of the employee taken with every clock in and out. If there is a suspicion that there is a buddy punching occurring, the employer can browse the archive of images and check if the puncher and the employee are the same people.

Generating the unique QR code

If Calamari is working in a terminal mode (for example near the entrance to the facility) the most common way to initiate the time clock is to scan the QR code either printed on the ID card or delivered by the mobile app. If there is suspicious activity, the employer can block the first option and enable to clock in only by the unique code generated in the app every time. Thus, there is no way to pass the entrance card to the peer and enable him or her to clock in the colleague.

GPS and IP control

It is possible to clock in using the app. If the employer distrust the employee, he can set the app to share the GPS tracking every time one clock in. Thus, it would be harder to clock in during commuting or when being late out of the office. And if the employee did so, the localization would be shared.

In the same way, there can be a whitelist of IP addresses set. For example, one can clock in only from the office building and his or her home, without the chance to start clocking from any other location.

iBeacon technology

Calamari can be used with an innovative iBeacon technology. The beacon is a Bluetooth device that connects with the app installed on the users’ phones. The time clock starts when the user is in the range of the beacon (for example in the office building) and stops when he or she leaves.

API and integrations

Last but not least, Calamari comes with multiple integrations with the most popular tools used by companies around the world. Thus, the company can set triggers based on the activity in another tool to start or stop the clock in, if the nature of work makes it necessary.

Last but not least, Calamari offers also the API, which delivers an unlimited level of customizability. When having a coder on board, the company can build its own layer that makes the buddy punching more avoidable. How this can be done is the matter of the preferences and industry the company works in.


Buddy punching and time theft is a serious threat for the company, yet solving it with brute force is not tackling the root cause of the problem. The best way to fight this fraud is to build a transparent culture that supports mutual trust and partnership – something that prevents making a buddy punch on the time clock for colleagues much stronger than any technology.

This fact was obviously overlooked by Mr. Gillette who was a business theorist of sharp wits yet with all the approaches of the late XIX and early XX century business methods. And despite all the fun coming from the sharp-witted pun with his surname, he has nothing to do with King Camp Gillette, the inventor of a disposable shaving razor.

Read our HR blog for more interesting articles. If you wish to talk more about the ways Calamari can help you in tackling the buddy punching problem, don’t hesitate to contact us now!


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