For various reasons, some employees might not like filling out timesheets. They may view it as tedious and time-consuming, or in the case of salaried or exempt workers, they might see it as unnecessary. Federal labor law requires you to track nonexempt employees’ time; this accounts for most hourly workers. Provided you maintain accurate records, you can use whatever timekeeping system you want. There are some things you can do to ensure compliance and to get reluctant employees to properly fill out their time sheets.

Step 1.

Establish an easy-to-use timekeeping system based on the size of your payroll. For example, if you have less than 10 employees, you may buy standard time sheets from an office supply and have employees complete them weekly. To increase accuracy, you may instead purchase a standard punch clock and blank time cards. If your payroll is considerable, consider an automated system that requires employees to clock in via swipe cards or finger or palm print.

Step 2.

Incorporate timekeeping procedures in your employee handbook. This includes when time sheets are due and to whom they should be submitted. Clearly state the consequences of violating certain timesheet rules, such as termination for falsifying timesheets. Give all employees a copy of the handbook.

Step 3.

Create a payroll calendar and distribute it to all employees. This comes in handy when paydays change, such as during holiday weeks. The calendar shows pay period start and end dates, timesheet submission dates and corresponding pay dates throughout the year.

Step 4.

Designate managers and supervisors to train new and existing employees on how to fill out timesheets. If you have an automated system, if necessary, ask the vendor to send someone out to train managers and supervisors who in turn should train their employees.

Step 5.

Simplify timesheet calculation by requiring employees to round up and down to the nearest quarter hour. Round the time from one to seven minutes down and time from eight to 14 minutes up. For example, if an employee arrives to work at 8:11 a.m., she puts 8:15 a.m. on the time sheet. If she clocks out at 5:21 p.m., she writes 5:15 p.m. In many cases, automated timekeeping systems perform rounding.

Step 6.

Restrict timekeeping entries to only what counts. For example, limit entries to regular, overtime, vacation, sick and personal hours and paid breaks taken. Require fixed salaried workers to fill out time sheets only, if necessary.

Step 7.

Explain to employees what’s in it for them. For example, say that proper completion speeds up payroll processing, ensures timely paychecks, accelerates the billing cycle and increases cash flow. Have managers or supervisors communicate the benefits to their subordinates.

Step 8.

Encourage an open door policy so employees can approach their superiors when they have timesheet issues.

Step 9.

Refrain from using a penalty system to get employees to fill out their timesheet appropriately. For example, withholding paychecks until employees submit their timesheet might be prohibited under state law and may create an environment of distrust between managers and employees.


Before implementing timekeeping policies, check with the state labor department for applicable rules. For the example, the state might have specific regulations for rounding, recordkeeping and the use of biometric time clocks.