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An employee time clock is a device or software program that helps employers and employees keep track of employee punctuality and work attendance. Some employers may rely on an employee time clock solely for the purpose of tracking the employment hours of hourly employees, although some businesses may require all employees, even those in salaried positions, to use the time clock system. Historically, an employee time clock has been a specialized machine that stamps or prints the time and day of an employee's arrivals to and departures from the workplace. Although these machines still exist, many have become very sophisticated and are designed to interface with a company's computer network to provide comprehensive reports for to an employer's payroll and human resources departments as well as managers and supervisors. Similarly, some time clock systems now exist entirely as an online system, allowing employees to register their time at work through their desk computers.
The most obvious use of an employee time clock is to measure the amount of time an hourly employee spends at work so that he or she can be compensated accordingly. A secondary but very common use of the time clock is to measure whether an employee is coming into work late or leaving early. While some companies rely on a time sheet system in which an employee enters his or her own work arrival and departure times onto a printed piece of paper or computer spreadsheet, this system does not prevent the employee from entering inaccurate information. A time clock, on the other hand, is programmed to print or enter the exact time of arrival and departure onto a time card or record sheet, preventing fraud. Some time clocks now incorporate a biometric feature that requires employees to allow a scan of their thumbprint as a way to prevent one employee from attempting to sign in or out of work on behalf of another employee.
Other features of contemporary time clocks include the ability of employees and supervisors to easily add information about their time in and out of the office. For example, if an employee leaves the office to work on company business, he or she can note this information when recording his or her departure on the employee time clock. Similarly, employees and supervisors can add information about various types of employee leave, such as vacations or sick time, to time reports, making it easy for the payroll department to calculate employee pay and for the company to manage employee attendance.