How to Prevent Buddy Punching

Gabriela Tan
April 4, 2024

With so much focus on customer service and product knowledge in the cannabis retail space, it can be easy for a simple task like timekeeping to become an afterthought. This can lead to “buddy punching”, a surprisingly common practice among hourly employees with 16% of US employees and 34% of Canadian employees admitting to doing it. In addition to increased labor costs, buddy punching poses additional concerns specifically for cannabis businesses. Preventing buddy punching isn’t just about payroll in this industry – it’s also about product security and ensuring precise record-keeping. 


In this article, we’ll be covering the basics of buddy punching, along with 6 solutions and strategies you can use to prevent the costly practice. 

What is Buddy Punching?

Buddy punching is a deceitful practice where an employee clocks in or out for an employee who isn’t present. Usually, buddy punching is done as a quick favor between colleagues to cover each other for various reasons, like arriving late or leaving early. Although it doesn’t sound like a big deal, buddy punching is a form of time theft and leads businesses to pay employees for unworked hours. 

What is the Cost of Buddy Punching?

While buddy punching might seem like a harmless act between co-workers, a business can incur significant costs from it. In the US, buddy punching costs employers at least $373 million a year.

Beyond financial costs, buddy punching can:

  • Negatively impact productivity and workflow, making it more difficult to achieve goals as a team.
  • Reduce trust and morale among colleagues, resulting in a culture of dishonesty.
  • Jeopardize product security, leading to inventory discrepancies.
  • Hinder accurate record-keeping, raising compliance concerns.

With so many potential issues arising from buddy punching in the workplace, addressing this problem promptly can be crucial to the success of your business. 

6 Solutions and Strategies to Prevent Buddy Punching

Now that we’ve covered the basics of buddy punching, let’s explore a few different solutions and strategies that you can implement to prevent it from happening. 

1. Biometric Time Clocks

Biometric time clocks offer a unique solution to prevent buddy punching by using an individual’s biological traits, such as fingerprinting or face ID, to identify employees. A machine is used to scan the employee’s fingerprints or face to determine whether the scan matches what’s on the employee’s profile. This technology ensures that only the authorized individual can clock in or out, eliminating the possibility of buddy punching. Using cannabis time tracking software with face ID technology, like KayaPush, can help your business accurately streamline timekeeping.

An employee is using face ID on a mobile device to clock in for her shift.

2. On-Site Supervisors and Surveillance Cameras

While high-tech solutions exist, the old-school solution of having a strong physical presence can also deter buddy punching. On-site supervisors are a visible reminder to employees that someone is watching, making it less likely that they will attempt to clock in for a colleague. Similarly, a strategically placed surveillance camera can catch clock-in and clock-out activity in real time. Despite the effectiveness of these solutions, a dedicated on-site supervisor adds significant labor costs, and camera systems require upfront investment and continuous monitoring. Additionally, some employees might feel as if they’re being micromanaged, which can reduce morale and trust. 

3. Require a Sensitive Password

Requiring a sensitive password to clock in or out adds an additional layer of security to time tracking systems by tying employee identification to sensitive personal information, such as the last four digits of their SSN. This solution deters employees from sharing these sensitive details, thereby reducing the chances of buddy punching. While it might discourage casual buddy punching, one drawback to consider with this solution is potential data security concerns. 

4. Cultivating a Culture of Accountability

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to prevent buddy punching might not be technological. Cultivating a culture of accountability fosters a work environment where taking responsibility is valued, including when it comes to accurate timekeeping. Establishing open communication where employees feel comfortable alerting managers about their tardiness or early departures can encourage transparency and honesty among the team. Additionally, creating clear zero-tolerance policies for time theft can reinforce the culture of accountability. Combining that with recognizing employees for following proper timekeeping practices can help them understand the importance of accurate timekeeping. 

A smiling employee helps a customer choose a product.

5. GPS Time Tracking

Unlike traditional clock-in systems that are limited to a physical location, GPS time tracking can verify an employee’s location when they clock in or out. This essentially creates a virtual “fence” around the workplace and confirms that an employee is physically present to start or end their shift. Additionally, some GPS time tracking systems include geo-fencing, which can automate the process entirely. When employees enter or leave the designated work zone, their time automatically gets recorded without the need for manual punching. Not only does this minimize buddy punching, but it also streamlines payroll and improves timekeeping accuracy. 

6. Training and Monitoring

Training and monitoring act as a two-pronged approach that compliments the strategy of cultivating a culture of accountability. Hosting training sessions can educate your employees about company policies and the negative impacts time theft has on payroll and compliance. Once employees are trained on what’s expected, regular monitoring of timekeeping data can identify discrepancies that require a follow-up. If the discrepancy was due to a simple mistake, such as a missed punch, have a simple conversation with the employee as a gentle reminder. However, if the discrepancy is suspected buddy punching – don’t panic yet. Gather more information and investigate the situation before taking any disciplinary action. 

A screenshot of KayaPush time tracking shows an unapproved shift, which may be a sign of buddy punching


Final Thoughts on Preventing Buddy Punching

All in all, preventing buddy punching in your cannabis business will most likely require a multi-faceted approach. While tech solutions like biometric time clocks and GPS time tracking offer security, fostering a culture of accountability is equally as important. Remember that one of your most valuable assets as a business is your staff. Creating a work environment built on trust and transparency allows you to navigate the issue of buddy punching while keeping your team happy. 


If you’re ready to take the first step to preventing buddy punching, book a demo with us at KayaPush. Our cannabis-specific people management software allows you to streamline your HR from time tracking and payroll to hiring and onboarding. Explore the possibilities of strain free HR today! 

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