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Managers hate to nag about time cards. It can feel like a power struggle with a bunch of five-year-olds. You hire competent professionals. You don’t want to think of them as kids who refuse to pick up their toys.

Getting employees to turn in time cards is a problem that has plagued employers since the Industrial Revolution.

But many companies have solved the late time card dilemma. You can too.

How Can I Make Sure Employees Are Turning In Their Time Cards?

  1. Find out why
  2. Solve the problems
  3. Hold managers accountable
  4. Create a discipline policy
  5. Train employees and managers
  6. Get an employee timekeeping system

Find Out Why Employees Aren’t Turning In Time Cards

Maybe they don’t understand the system. Or they simply forget. Clearly, they don’t realize the importance.

If they don’t understand the system, it’s time for basic time card training. Create a process with deadlines. Add it to your onboarding documents. Give everyone a refresher course. Have all employees sign a document. It acknowledges that they understand the process and agree to follow it.

Solve Your Late Time Card Problems

Do they forget?

Try email reminders or texts. Automated employee timekeeping systems have built-in alerts. Sync them to your payroll schedule.

Can’t access the system?

If you have paper time cards, this puts mobile employees at a disadvantage. Inexpensive web-based time tracking apps can help. Your remote employees can punch in with their phone.

Employee time tracking systems synced to time clocks create time cards automatically. You might have to remind your employees to punch in, but you won’t have to remind them to turn in their time cards.

Some systems can sync to your Wi-Fi. When an employee logs on, it starts tracking hours.

Hold Your Managers Accountable

The burden shouldn’t fall on the HR director or payroll manager. Turning in time cards is a primary job function. As an essential job role, managers should hold them accountable.

They are in a better position to know what’s really going on. If your managers are competent, they can solve your late time card problem.

If they can’t, you have more than late time cards to worry about.

How To Create a Progressive Discipline Policy For Late Time Cards

Progressive discipline policies start with a warning. For repeat infractions, the penalties increase in severity.

Here’s an example:

  1. First offense: verbal warning
  2. Second offense: written warning
  3. Third offense: suspension
  4. Fourth offense: termination

Some companies skip the suspension step because it brings its own problems.

Time For Time Card Training

Train your managers. Unified HR portals make it easy to create training programs. Electronic document management simplifies training and onboarding. E-sign provides accountability and documentation. Both of which are important for performance reviews and compliant discipline policies.

How Do I End Late Time Card Excuses?

  • ‘It’s too confusing:’ Make the process simple.
  • ‘I was out of the office:’ Use a web-based timekeeping app.
  • ‘I forget:’ Use a timekeeping app with built-in reminders and alerts.

Train Employees And Managers On Time Card Submission

  • During onboarding
    • Web-based onboarding software can help
  • As often as it takes going forward
    • You can remind weekly in an employee HR portal
  • Tie it to their performance review
    • It’s an essential job function
  • Manage training materials with e-signature
    • Employee HR portals have e-sign

Articulate Why They Have To Do It

You should not have to do this. That said, you have to do this.

It’s no mystery why payroll needs timesheets. Whether your employees are hourly or salaried. You can’t cut checks without hours. You can’t bill clients. A secondary reason (but no less important) is that you can’t plan projects. Billable time records show how employee hours break down per project or client. Finally, you can’t stay on the good side of the DOL without accurate timesheets.

Why Are Accurate Time Cards Critical?

  • You need them to pay employees
  • You need them to track your costs
  • You need them to maintain compliance
  • You need them to bill your clients

Get An Employee Timekeeping System

Automated employee timekeeping combined with a straightforward process is the best solution.

Why Is Employee Timekeeping Software Better Than Google Docs and Excel?

Consider the advantages of automated employee time tracking:

  1. Digital time cards
  2. Mobile access
    • Access for managers
    • Access for employees
    • Access for payroll
  3. Alerts and reminders
  4. Syncs to a physical or web-based time clock

Those are the must-haves for automated employee time tracking.

Here are the nice-to-haves:

  • PTO tracking
  • ‘Employee-aware’ prompts
  • Schedule lockouts
  • Synced to employee scheduling
  • Shift trade board
  • Time off requests

If you are planning to get a timekeeping app, you might as well solve other problems. It won’t cost you any more.

Mobile Time Tracking Apps Solve Manager Timesheet Delays

Mobile time tracking apps help managers approve time cards on time. When time cards live online, managers can approve them from their mobile phone. They don’t need to be at work.

Online Time Cards Are Never Late

Employee time tracking apps make sure employees turn in time cards. Because the app does it for them. Employees punch in with a physical or web-based clock. It creates a time card. The software tracks the hours and shifts in real time.

Solve The End-Of-Pay-Period Time Card Scramble

  1. The system creates online time cards
  2. Supervisors can approve them from a mobile device
  3. The payroll manager imports the timesheets into your payroll system

Time Card Compliance Q & A

Time cards have many compliance implications. Here are answers to important legal questions:

Do I Have To Pay When An Employee Doesn’t Turn In A Timesheet?

Yes. You can’t withhold pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it’s the employer’s responsibility to keep records of the employee’s hours.

What Should I Do If An Employee Doesn’t Turn In Their Time Card?

Estimate from past pay periods. Either with timesheets or project hours. Note that you will have to correct any discrepancies on their next paycheck. Document your efforts to get the information. Create a paper trail to protect you in case of a Department of Labor (DOL) audit. HR portals simplify recordkeeping requirements.

If An Employee Agrees To Work Off-The Clock, Can I Make It Up Next Paycheck?

No. Some employers try to avoid paying overtime by off-the-clock work. They plan to make it up to the employee when the deadline crunch is over. (Hopefully.)

Nice try. Whether you are planning to pay overtime next paycheck—or straight time—this is illegal.

TimeWorksPlus Solves Late Time Cards

TimeWorksPlus is an automated web-based employee timekeeping system. It’s the industry standard for small to mid-size businesses with hourly employees.

TimeWorksPlus creates digital time cards. It has the must-haves and the extras. It helps you solve your time card problems and increase efficiency overall. TimeWorksPlus helps you make sure your employees turn in time cards.


TimeWorksExpress is a turnkey timekeeping system from SwipeClock. It’s perfect for employers who want to solve their late time card problems today. For good.

By Liz Strikwerda


Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, CloserIQ, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn
Liz Strikwerda