What is a time and attendance system?
Many people believe that a time and attendance (T&A) system is simply a way to record when employees begin and end their shift work, and it's certainly true that for many years shift workers have clocked in and out using machines.
However, modern T&A systems can do a great deal more than simply monitor starting and finishing times. Nowadays it's possible to obtain and use a vast array of information, which, when used efficiently, can lead to improved productivity for your company.
T&A systems can track employees by department, as well as tracking additional information such as mealtimes, breaks, attendance and punctuality. Annual leave, compassionate leave and specific circumstances (such as jury service) can all be included, and details such as the employee's department and output can be added. Routine tasks such as regular inspection routes can also be included.
Planning capability allows you to timetable shifts with ease, ensuring that everyone works the correct number of hours, taking into account rest days and compliance with the Working Time Directive (WTD). This is especially helpful if you employ casual workers, or operate variable shift patterns. T&A systems can handle multiple and complex information sources easily.
You can read more about the best types of modern timesheet software here
What are the benefits of a time and attendance system?
A good time and attendance system will allow you to have a wide range of data about your operations at your fingertips, enabling you to put efficiency measures in place.
For example, the annual cost of losing ten minutes a day per employee for a large company can amount to a six-figure sum, so there are many benefits to be derived.
The tracking and analysis functions will give you a clear understanding of staffing operations, allowing you to address any issues.
Accurate information leads to accurate wage bills, allowing you to minimise your costs. Individual employee information will alert you to trigger points regarding absence procedures, and allow you to tackle lateness in a prompt and efficient manner. Fraud is reduced, especially if biometric terminals are used, as employees can't use someone else's timecard or clock in for a colleague.
Forward planning is also simplified, which is very helpful for organisations needing a minimum staffing ratio e.g. care homes, and individual working patterns can be adhered to.
Individual employee records can be linked. A T&A system that is fully integrated with HR and payroll services will save many hours admin time, and result in greater efficiency.
Most T&A systems are now cloud based, giving even greater access and flexibility. Installation is easier, and routine tasks such as maintenance and upgrades can be done remotely, often by the host company.
How do I choose the best time and attendance system?
There are a wide range of possibilities to consider when looking into T&A systems for the first time. You could simply buy all the necessary component parts and install them yourself, or perhaps buy an ‘out-of-the-box' solution.
However, it's important to think carefully about the exact needs of your business, not only now, but in the future. A T&A system can be expensive, and you don't want to end up with one which becomes obsolete further down the line. For this reason, you may be better off purchasing or leasing a full bespoke installation, specifically tailored to your needs.
Begin by deciding what you want the system to do for you. Which key areas of your operation do you want to address? How will you evaluate the success of your installation? It's not just about deciding which features you want, but more about ensuring you have a system that solves your problems for you.
- Think about your operations in detail. How many employees do you have, and across how many sites?
- Will you need multiple access sites or just one?
- Will staff clock in using punchcards, swipe cards, mobile phones, or biometrics such as fingerprints?
- Who will be administering the system?
- You may feel that allowing senior staff to manage their own department is a powerful incentive for them to work towards improvement.
Consider the quality of information you need. Some systems may overload you with unnecessary information, and no-one has the time or inclination to plough through reams of superfluous data. You should aim for efficient filtering to provide information that is both useful and accessible.
- How flexible is your proposed system? Every business is different and has different working procedures, which the system will need to accommodate.
- Can your chosen system be customised on an ongoing basis if your operations change?
Choose your provider carefully. Some companies sell their own systems, so they are unlikely to tell you if a rival product is better for you. But they will have full ownership of the system, and can probably customise it more easily if required.
Agencies that re-sell products are likely to have lower overheads, as they don't need to support development costs. They can also offer a wider range of products, but they will have less direct access to the systems, which could make it difficult if you need a customised solution.
Check exactly what is included in your deal. Does it cover installation, staff training, and implementation of the system? Confirm arrangements for after sales support, and the situation regarding any future development and upgrading.
- What is the life span of the product?
- Are upgrades free or included in your deal?
Be aware of the dangers of getting tied into a long term contract; you may be stuck with a system that no longer meets your needs. However, if you make a one-off purchase, you want to know that product support will continue for older versions if you choose not to upgrade.
A good supplier will work with you to ensure that you end up with the system you need, rather than merely try to sell you a product.
How much will a time and attendance system cost?
For a fully-installed system, it is difficult to estimate costs, because every business is unique, so every installation is a bespoke solution. You will need to discuss the details with your supplier, and ensure that any quote is broken down, so that pricing is transparent and you can compare costs between suppliers.
If you prefer to manage the installation yourself, or purchase a standard set up, here are some guidelines:
A clocking-in machine with RFID (wireless) and fingerprint sensors will cost between about £230 – £530 for the very best clocking in system. The prices varies, depending on number of users and the number of time logs that can be stored. However, this price usually includes operating software.
A standalone copy of the software retails at around £60, and 1 hour of installation support (by phone) costs around £100.
You will also need to factor in some additional costs for peripherals e.g. badges, key fobs etc.
Time and attendance companies/services in the UK
There are many companies offering time and attendance services in the UK.
Mitrefinch is a well-established company that works across a range of industries, including manufacturing, retail, transport, health, and service.
Their web based T&A system offers a range of products, and fully integrated bespoke installation. It can be easily linked with HR and payroll services, and can also manage time allocation and job costing to allow you to calculate task costs accurately. It can even manage flexible and remote working, and many routine tasks can be managed automatically, saving precious admin time.
Bodet offers a complete, fully-installed system, or individual peripherals such as clocking-in machines, swipe and fingerprint machines, or access control systems.
Its ‘Kelio' system provides a wide variety of functions, including: multi-site capability, web or intranet networking, and graphical employee rostering. It covers a range of employee data and can be linked to HR and payroll services, allowing for full synchronisation of employee records, including training logs, disciplinary records, etc. There is also the option to allow personal remote access so employees can review their own data and contact line managers directly if required.
Another long established company, Wisegrove operates across the whole of the UK and Ireland, providing a range of T&A solutions. Customers include companies working in the fields of manufacturing, retail, healthcare, leisure, education and public sector organisations.
Their products cover traditional clocking-in arrangements, to sophisticated T&A systems which can incorporate requirements of the WTD, and link to personnel systems with different operating systems such as Sage and Pegasus.
A full after sales service is available, with the option to extend your warranty at the end of your agreed period if required.
Installing a T&A system for your business is a big decision, possibly involving significant financial outlay. So it's important you fully consider all your options and your specific requirements before committing yourself.
Purchasing the right system will give you a good return on your investment, but a wrong decision could result in a system that does not meet your needs. By completing the form above, Expert Market will help put you on the right track.
In today's financial market, ensuring that your business operates with maximum efficiency is crucial, so why not take the first step towards improving your business efficiency with a high quality time and attendance system?