What is buddy punching and how can you stop it?

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23 May 2023

What is buddy punching and how can you stop it?

Buddy punching is when an employee asks a colleague to clock-in or out of a shift for them. It’s the single biggest contributor to time-theft in the workplace and can end up costing an organisation a lot of money over the course of a year.

In this post, we’ll look at the causes of buddy punching and offer three simple solutions to eradicate it in your workplace.

The causes of buddy punching

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a staff member absolutely hates their job and is simply trying to steal a few extra minutes. But it’s more likely the result of something far less sinister. This could include, low morale, lack of confidence to speak up or simply inflexible rotas.

It’s important too, to note that buddy punching is most prevalent when an organisation uses manual / paper timesheets or fobs / swipe cards at their place of work.

Low moralelow morale

If the thought of getting out of bed in the morning and commuting to a job that you don’t feel engaged with is tough, then there’s a good chance that you might hit the snooze button and ask a colleague to buddy punch.

Lack of confidence to speak up

If you’re afraid of speaking with your line manager about a perfectly legitimate reason for being late (or needing to leave early) then, again you might ask a colleague to buddy punch.

Inflexible rotas

Rigid shift patterns and little say over when and where you’ll be working is a leading cause of buddy punching – and thankfully, one that can be easily rectified.

How to stop buddy punching

Since we’ve already established that buddy punching is rarely an act of resentment towards an employer, but rather a result of feeling isolated whether it be through disengagement or fearing getting in trouble – here are three ways that you can put an end to buddy punching once and for all.

Employee-led rostering

location-based clock-in

Building rotas to accommodate the preferences of your staff instantly improves engagement, reduces absenteeism and you guessed it, buddy punching.

You’ll still be able to control shift patterns (and ultimately who’s working) but this way feels much more inclusive and can reap plenty of rewards in the long-run; retention, recruitment, morale and more.

RotaMaster facilitates employee-led rostering, allowing the opportunity to request annual leave, submit preferences over shifts and access a pool of vacant shifts via our handy mobile app. Furthermore, auto-scheduling allows employers to populate entire rotas at the click of a button and in less than sixty seconds – accommodating all staff preferences.

Location-based clock-in (and out)

Attendance image

By setting a virtual fence around a duty station of between 1 metre and 1,000 metres, employers can control clock-in (and out) via a mobile device for its entire workforce. This in turn feeds directly into timesheet and payroll records, meaning that it can’t be abused like it can with manual timesheets or fob / swipe key clock in.

This feature is available with the RotaMaster mobile app for staff that’s also packed with tools to improve communication, like push notifications for shift availability and shift reminders.

Encourage open communication

We’ve already established that one of the key drivers for buddy punching is a fear of being reprimanded. Often the request to leave a few minutes early or start a few minutes late is the result of a perfectly valid reason – like a hospital appointment or finding last minute childcare.

Organisations that encourage open communication, see much improved morale, increased retention, and better productivity in the long term.

RotaMaster facilitates open communication with its innovative SMS, email and in-app messaging tools – helping to remove barriers between teams and enable companies and employees to respond in real time to unforeseen circumstances.


Buddy punching might sound like a light-hearted term, but it could cost your healthcare organisation a lot of money if it’s not addressed. Often, it’s the cause of a factor that can be easily addressed.

RotaMaster is packed with features that were designed to prevent buddy punching within healthcare organisations, including; location-based clock-in, auto-scheduling and clever communications tools.



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