Biometric Time Clock Guide: Laws, Challenges & How to Implement
43% of hourly shift workers surveyed by Software Advice admit committing time theft at least once, either by clocking in early, buddy punching, or recording inaccurate time stamps. No wonder companies have tried implementing various time and attendance systems, including the biometric time clock, to make sure they don’t pour money down the drain.
Even though biometric time clocks give accurate time and attendance data, they bring challenges. States and regions have different laws about the handling of biometric data. Employees are concerned about their privacy. Hefty fines and lawsuits might await if you don’t implement this system properly.
In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the implementation of a biometric time clock, so you can be prepared before using one in your business.
What is a biometric time clock?
A biometric time clock is a device that records the start time and end time of employees’ shifts using unique physical characteristics such as fingerprints, facial features, and more.
A biometric time clock requires employees to be physically present at the workplace to clock in and out of their shifts. It eliminates buddy punching—A clocks in for B even though B is not present—and time theft, which are easier to commit when using traditional time clocks such as paper punch cards or badges.
How do biometric time clocks work?
A typical biometric time clock operates with 3 main steps:
- A time clock device captures the biometrics of staff and stores them as digital templates.
- When staff clock in and out, they let the device scan their biometrics (fingerprints, face, iris, etc.). For example, a staff puts a finger on the device reader or speaks a phrase to the device.
- The device compares the scanned biometrics with the stored digital templates. If it’s a match, your staff can clock in and out, their shift’s start time or end time will be recorded.
Are biometric time clocks legal?
Biometric time clocks are legal in most US states. However, some states such as Illinois, Texas, and Washington have issued legislations that regulate the use of biometric time clocks.
Companies in the EU must adhere to the GDPR, where strict regulations related to biometric data are applied. You can’t process biometric data unless you have a legitimate business reason, employee consent, and adequate safeguards to protect the data.
Besides the laws, collecting and processing biometric data concern staff about their privacy. Several courts on the poor handling of biometric data have occurred, and many companies have been penalized.
So, check with a lawyer to make sure you’re allowed to implement a biometric time clock and you’re aware of the requirements and restrictions that come with it.
Types of biometric time clock
A fingerprint biometric time clock allows employees to clock in and out by putting their fingers on the device reader.
This type of clock is very common because it’s convenient and fast. But it doesn’t recognize fingerprints when an employee’s fingerprint is not clear enough, too wet, or too dry. If you use a fingerprint clock, you need to set up backup clock-in options such as PIN codes or passwords.
A facial recognition biometric time clock clocks employees in and out by scanning their facial features.
Employees stand in front of the device’s camera to let the clock scan and clock them in/out. Some advanced biometric time clocks can even clock employees in and out automatically when they walk through the door.
An iris scanning time clock scans each person’s iris to clock them in and out of shifts.
Advanced iris clocks can verify employees while they’re wearing masks, helmets, or work gear. Some can combine with facial scanning for more accuracy.
A voice recognition biometric time clock clocks employees in and out using their voice.
This type of time clock records employees speaking a particular phrase. Every time an employee clocks in or out, they must say that phrase to the device so it can recognize and record their arrival/departure.
A vein pattern time clock reads the vein patterns of the finger or palm, then compares them with the pre-recorded patterns in the database to clock employees in and out.
A hand geometry time clock reads the size and shape of employees’ hands (not fingerprints or palm prints) to clock them in and out. To be specific, it measures the width, length, thickness, and surface of the hand.
Combination biometric time clock
A combination biometric time clock can scan multiple types of biometrics to record the arrival and departure of employees.
For example, a combination time clock can require both a fingerprint scan and a facial scan to record attendance. Some clocks may scan multiple biometric types—fingerprint, face, voice, iris—for extra accuracy and security.
Challenges of a biometric time clock
Regulations concerning biometric data and privacy
Biometric data is sensitive information because it connects to an individual’s identity. Employers must be careful when collecting and processing this type of data.
If you have staff living in the EU or you run a multinational business that may involve transferring data of EU residents, you must adhere to the GDPR. Generally, you must:
- Have a legitimate business reason to collect and process biometric data of employees
- Get employee consent before implementing a bio time clock
- Take adequate measures to store and protect the data
Although the GDPR doesn’t apply to US companies and US citizens, several US states have issued similar regulations to protect personal data and employees’ privacy. With concerns about data privacy rising, it’s very likely to see comparable regulations enacted in other places in the future.
The confusing thing about these biometric data regulations is they vary from country to country, state to state. You should seek a legal expert to ensure you’re compliant with labor laws.
Privacy and employee consent
The collection and storage of biometric data certainly raise concerns among many employees about their privacy. Not everyone is comfortable enough to have their fingerprints and photos taken and stored in someone else’s system.
Also, when an employer asks for consent to collect biometric data, employees are in a position where it’s difficult to say No. This can make some feel like their privacy is violated and they’re imposed on a policy that only benefits the employer.
Transparency and security
Businesses must prioritize transparency and security when they implement a biometric time clock system. That includes informing employees about the time clock and communicating why and how employees’ data will be collected, what for, and how you protect their data.
Several companies have been fined and penalized for data violations and processing data without employee consent. Being clear about your practices and keeping data secure help build trust and you also avoid complicated lawsuits.
Benefits of a biometric time clock
Eliminates buddy punching
Biometrics can’t be faked or replicated, so buddy punching is impossible to happen. Staff must be physically present at the work location. No one can punch in for coworkers or record the hours they didn’t work.
Convenient for staff
Employees forget keys, cards, badges, and passwords all the time. With a biometric time clock, employees don’t have to remember anything. They just need to show up at the work location.
More accurate data and less manual work
These time clocks automatically record the arrival and departure times of employees, so you can track who’s late and absent in real-time. Worked hours and overtime hours are also recorded accurately. You don’t have to enter data manually anymore, hence minimizing human error.
Easy to manage remote workers and field workers
It’s difficult to check if remote workers and field workers have arrived at their work location or not. Biometric time clocks that integrate with a mobile device and GPS can be useful for organizations.
What is the best biometric time clock for your business?
Depending on your business needs, certain biometric time clocks may fit better than the others. The below criteria are what you should consider when choosing one for your business.
The new time clock should integrate with your existing systems well, including scheduling, HR, management, or payroll. If you still use traditional time clocks, they should work well with the new bio time clock, too.
Each workplace has different requirements that the biometric time clock should meet. For example, construction sites require durability; healthcare facilities require touchless, flexible systems.
Not everyone has the authority to access biometric data. To allow only authorized people to access this data and for extra security, you should choose a system that encrypts the data.
Your biometric time clock should work with cloud-based software so you can get attendance data in real time. This allows you to manage your workers from anywhere without relying on a certain device.
The system should be able to serve you well as you grow. For example, you can add more users to an account, request new features, or request enterprise customization.
When your company grows bigger, the need for a time clock that can accommodate a large number of employees is inevitable. If you select a system that limits the number of employees you can manage, migration to a new solution can be a headache.
Some time clock systems require the purchase of stand-alone devices. Subscription-based solutions may charge extra costs for added features. Make sure you know the costs to keep your budget in control.
Implementing a biometric time clock takes more effort than we thought. It’s not enough to randomly choose a solution available on the market and throw it at your workforce. Poor implementation means facing legal issues and employees’ discontent.
Take some time to communicate the use of a biometric time clock with your staff and go through the required legal processes. You’ll see that convenience can go hand in hand with security, transparency, and compliance.
💡 If you’re worried about compliance, consider a safer time clock app such as Camelo. With Camelo, your staff can clock in and out via their phones using GPS or WiFi. They simply open the app to verify whether they’ve arrived at work, or connect to a WiFi network at the work site to clock in. Both are safe and simple to implement. Try Camelo for free today.