Last month, we talked about the concept of rounding, and how it could help you control labor costs by not paying for “coffee and chat time” before the start of a shift or after the end of the workday. To recap the rules related to rounding:

  1. Rounding must be applied both when it’s in your favor and when it’s in the employees’ favor. You can’t decide to only round when it works out to your benefit.
  2. You can’t round more than 15 minutes.
  3. The rounding must be applied so that employees are still fully paid for all work time. If employees actually start work early or stay working late, you must pay them for that time.

This month, let’s look at how to set up Acroprint’s timeQplus software to automate the process of rounding.

Shift Rules 101

Remember that timeQplus allows you to set up multiple “shifts.” These can correspond to actual shifts or to departments or workgroups within your organization — whatever makes sense for your business.

Each shift can be configured with its own start and stop times and other shift rules.

The rules we’re most interested in today are Shift Round, Grace and Dock. Together, these shift rules work together to implement rounding. The following illustration can help you understand how these three settings relate to each other:

illustration of shift round, grace and dock windows as they relate to shift start and stop times

Shift Round

As you can see from the illustration, Shift Round applies to time before the scheduled shift start and after the scheduled shift end. The software can “round away” up to 15 minutes of time if employees clock in before the start of work or clock out after the end of the shift. (Just remember, though, if they’re actually working during this time, you can’t “round away” those minutes. You must pay employees for all work time, regardless of what your official start and stop times are.)

Here’s an example of how the Shift Round setting would work:

Let’s say you configure your start-of-day Shift Round setting to five minutes, to account for employees who clock in a little early so they can beat the start-of-shift rush at the time clock. If an employee clocks in at 7:57am — three minutes early — her punch would be “rounded forward” to 8:00am, since that’s when she would actually start working.

If, however, the employee clocks in at 7:54am — six minutes early — Shift Round would not apply, since this is more than five minutes prior to the shift start time. Instead, her actual punch time would be recorded.

Similarly, you can apply a Shift Round setting to the end of the shift. Let’s say you also set up an end-of-day Shift Round of five minutes. When an employee clocks out at 5:04pm — four minutes past the end of the shift — his punch would be “rounded back” to 5:00pm. But if he clocks out at 5:07pm — seven minutes after shift end — his actual punch time would be recorded. This time is outside the end-of-day Shift Round “window” you configured.

Shift Grace

We recall, though, that rounding can’t be applied only when it’s in our favor. To comply with the rules, we also have to apply it when it’s in the employee’s favor. That’s where the Shift Grace setting comes in.

Shift Grace is similar to Shift Round, except that it applies to the minutes just after the official shift start time and just before the scheduled shift end time. It’s designed to avoid penalizing employees who are just a minute or two late clocking in, just as Shift Round helps you avoid paying extra to employees who clock in just a few minutes early.

As with Shift Round, you can configure Shift Grace for up to 15 minutes. You should typically set it to the same amount of time as you configured for Shift Round.

Here’s an example of how Shift Grace would work:

Let’s say you set the start-of-day Shift Grace to five minutes. When an employee clocks in at 8:04am — within the Shift Grace window — his start punch would be rounded back to 8:00am. If he clocks in outside the Shift Grace window — say at 8:06am — depending on your configuration either your Shift Dock rules might apply or his actual punch time would be recorded.

As with Shift Round, Shift Grace can also be applied in a similar fashion to the end of the shift.

Shift Dock

The final setting is Shift Dock. This setting applies to employees who clock in especially late or clock out especially early. It takes effect after the Shift Grace window closes at the beginning of the shift and before the Shift Grace window opens at the end of the shift.

Since both Shift Grace and Shift Dock minutes are counted from the scheduled shift start and end times, Shift Dock must be set greater than Shift Grace in order for the Shift Dock settings to have any effect. Like Shift Grace, Shift Dock is limited to 15 minutes. If your Shift Grace window is already set for 15 minutes, Shift Dock will never take effect.

Here’s an example of how Shift Dock works:

Let’s say you configure the start-of-day Shift Grace for five minutes, and Shift Dock for 10 minutes. If an employee clocks in at 8:07am — after the end of the five minute Shift Grace window but within the 10 minute Shift Dock window — the system would adjust her punch time to 8:10am. If instead she clocks in at 8:12am — after the Shift Dock window has closed — her punch time would simply be recorded as 8:12am.

Final Notes

If you prefer not to use any or all of these settings, of course, you simply configure to zero the ones you don’t want. For instance, you could configure Shift Round and Shift Grace but set Shift Dock to zero. In that scenario, when an employee clocked in or out outside the Shift Round and Shift Grace windows his actual punch time would be recorded. No Shift Dock would be applied.

If you always want actual punch times recorded and plan to calculate by hand any necessary time adjustments, you can set all three configuration options to zero.

However, for many organizations Shift Round, Shift Grace and Shift Dock are useful tools. These settings work together to automate the process of rounding, potentially saving you time on payroll preparation, reducing errors from manual calculations and helping you better control your labor costs.

Acroprint time and labor management systems offer many additional configuration options to accommodate almost any organization’s time tracking needs. Suitable for use by both hourly and salaried employees, our workforce management systems — such as timeQplus, Pendulum and AcroTime — will save you time and money on payroll preparation.

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