I Forgot to Clock Out – What Will Happen and What to Do

Clocking out is vital because it marks the beginning and the end of a workday. It allows the employer to track who is on time and who didn’t make it to work. The human resource and payroll departments also need accurate timesheet records to avoid overpayments and underpayments. Once you forget to clock out, you will have to clock out before clocking back in. 

Failure to clock out at the end of a working day leaves the work clock running. This means that the employee’s timesheet will be inaccurate. If you clock in at 8.00 am and leave work at 4.00 pm, it means you have worked for eight hours.

However, if you do not make it known that you’ve left the office, the clock runs until the next day. That means that you’ll have 16 extra hours on your timesheet. The employer will have to pay for these extra hours if you don’t make modifications. 

What happens if you forget to clock out?

Employers require employees to clock out to keep a record of the total hours worked. Some situations might call for employees to put in extra hours. Employers must keep a record of all this data. 

If you forget to clock out at the end of a workday, the clock keeps counting. The only way to rectify this is to correct the timesheet with your manager or employer. The clock runs till the next day when you need to clock in. 

Clocking out is critical because employers could get into trouble for overworking their staff and not paying them enough. This applies even to those that forget to clock out for lunch. It may seem minute, but the law requires employees to get breaks at work. Lunch break, for example, lasts for about 30 minutes to an hour. Clocking out indicates that you took a break from work. Failure to do so means the employer must pay for the 30 or 60 minutes you stayed at work. 

The law also requires employers to pay employees who work while eating their lunch. This is why clocking out is critical even when going for lunch. It is important to note that if you forget to clock out, you have to inform the concerned authorities (HR or payroll) to stop them from paying for hours you didn’t work for.

What to do if you forget to clock out of work

Unless you intentionally choose not to clock out of work, there is no cause for alarm. Inform your employer or manager immediately to make the necessary changes to the timesheet. Some systems have login options for employees and managers or employers. The right thing to do (if you have such a program) is to get into the system and correct the timesheet. 

Choosing not to correct your timesheet yourself or alerting your employer will alter the payment schedule. It could lead to overpayment because of the extra hours. Remember, the work clock keeps running until you clock out.

Some employees fail to clock out several times within a short period. This calls for disciplinary action because it throws off payment schedules and timesheets. The law also defines this behavior as payroll fraud. 

Fortunately, managers and employers check to see how the timing systems are running. Therefore, they can easily spot inconsistencies. The most important thing to remember is to try your best not to repeat the mistake. 

How to tell your boss you forgot to clock out

It is vital to schedule an in-person meeting with your employer if you forgot to clock out as it is better than writing an email or letter. In a face-to-face meeting, explain what happened in detail. This way, it will save everyone the trouble of looking through time cards and timesheets.

Honesty is key in the workplace. You need to approach them first to prevent your employer or manager from thinking it was intentional and fraudulent. 

Most employees don’t inform their bosses because they think they won’t find out. It is only courteous to do so before they see the discrepancies in your timesheet. All you need to say is that you clocked out at 9.00 am on Tuesday, yet you were supposed to clock out at 4.00 pm on Monday. It’s as simple as that.  

All they’ll do is log into the system, select your time cards and get them in order. Imagine a scenario where you forgot to clock in. The employer will still have to pay you for hours not counted initially. If you get into work at 8.00 am and forget to clock in until noon, informing your employer or manager will help get your payment in order. The same applies when you forget to clock out. 

Can you get fired for forgetting to clock out?

Unfortunately, no law prohibits an employer from firing you because of forgetting to clock out. However, most employers resort to firing you if you are a repeat offender. Forgetting to clock out or twice might be believable. However, if you do it constantly. It will raise questions. Besides, employers or managers give a warning before taking drastic actions. 

Salaried employees can get fired if an employer has proof of fraud. This evidence should indicate how the employee falsified time cards to work less or get paid more. 

Companies have different policies, as indicated in the employee handbook. Here is a typical course of action your employer or manager could take:

A verbal warning

Here, your employer gives you a friendly reminder about the importance of clocking in and out accurately. Nothing menacing or strong-handed. Employers also understand that mistakes happen, so they are willing to give them second chances. 

A written warning 

After the verbal warning, your employer will issue a warning in written form. This is more in-depth. Although the employer or manager was lenient the first time, they clearly define the negative effects of your inefficiency in this warning.  

Suspension or termination

If the situation gets to this point, it means you have received several warnings without changing your clocking behavior. An employer has the right to terminate your contract because of inadequacies in productivity. 

What should you do if an employee forgets to clock out

Remember, you still have to pay your employees even if they forgot to clock out. In such situations, you’ll have to take their word for the truth about the hours they worked. Immediately you notice that an employee forgot to clock out, call them to find out what time they left the office. If there are surveillance cameras or shift supervisors on duty, confirm if the employee’s statement was honest.

It is vital to always ensure you deal with such issues immediately. Get an online time-tracking system that allows modifications to make corrections easier for you and your employees. With such a system, employers and employees can log in and put in the correct details.   

Having to fix a timesheet once is already frustrating. Imagine having to do that several times for different employees. Some occurrences might be unintentional, but some employees are repeat offenders. Here are a few ways to encourage employees to observe time clocking strictly:

  • Include a written time clock policy in the employee handbook
  • Educate employees on the importance of regular clocking in and out 
  • Explain the stringent measures you’ll take if such cases occur several times 
  • Introduce alarm systems and applications to remind them to clock in and out
  • Maintain an open professional relationship to encourage honesty
  • Remind them that you are watching, so no offense will go unnoticed   

If you notice time card fraud issues, contact your lawyer so that you take care of the situation without breaking any laws or going against employee rights. The law restricts you from withholding an employee’s salary. 

All employees have a right to pay for all the hours they were at work. Sort out the time cards to avoid legal action against you and your company. 

References Liz Strikwerda, Workforce Hub: Lunch Break Laws: Avoid a Compliance Gotcha

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