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Have Your Substitutes Shown Up?

Teacher Absences & Subs

Gone are the days of simply calling up a substitute and considering the absence filled. Even if you use a substitute placement and absence management system to manage the scheduling side, how do you know if the substitute ever actually showed up for the job? How do you know if he or she was on time? How many hours has each substitute actually worked this month? How much time are they spending on district property? What buildings were they in, and can you prove it?

The answers to these questions are critical for vetting your payroll efficiency, your federal compliance and your campus security.

Here are just a few of the benefits of tracking your substitutes’ time and attendance

Tracking substitute time and attendance improves payroll accuracy.

Some districts are still paying their substitutes on a shift by shift or daily basis. That is, districts know a substitute has been assigned to a vacancy, so they pay that substitute a flat rate for that period, or even that whole day, regardless of how many hours the substitute actually worked. In fact, in a lot of cases, the district doesn’t know or have record of the exact number of hours worked.

Generally, this process works. The payroll office cuts checks, and substitutes are happy. But the amount paid is not reflective of the actual time substitutes are working. In some cases, the district may be underpaying or overpaying subs. Neither of these situations is ideal, and evaluating exactly how much you should be spending on substitutes becomes a lot more difficult.

By tracking the actual number of hours a substitute works with an automated time & attendance system, you’ll automatically gain access to exact, comprehensive reporting on the work history of each of your substitutes. You’ll know exactly how many hours they’ve worked, whether they were on time to their classroom, or whether they showed up for their absence at all. And best of all, you’ll know that you’re paying your substitutes accurately according to the hours they’ve worked.

Tracking substitute time and attendance improves FLSA and ACA compliance.

While we’re talking about knowing exactly how much time your substitutes are working, do you know how your current process holds up against evolving FLSA and ACA regulations?

First, are you not tracking substitute time because you’ve classified them as independent contractors instead of employees? Many districts have been hit with classification lawsuits because they assumed that their substitutes were independent contractors rather than employees, and subsequently did not track their hours and pay them accordingly.

Second, how are you managing your long-term substitutes? In these unique situations, overtime and benefits obviously become important costs to calculate.

Third, how are you planning to manage your substitutes’ hours in light of the Affordable Care Act? While 72% of school districts do have plans to track substitute hours for the ACA, 28% are still not tracking their substitutes’ hours. Others have decided to limit their substitutes to 16 days a month to guarantee that substitutes stay beneath the 130 hours-per-month limit. While this approach will work, it’s not the most practical in light of the current substitute shortage.

In all three of these situations, having detailed records of your substitutes’ actual time worked would tell you how you ought to be paying your substitutes. And combined with ACA tools and reporting, those records could prove to be invaluable in determining who needs benefits, and proving it if an auditor comes to your district.

Tracking substitute time and attendance improves campus security.

Accurate pay and compliance aren’t the only benefits from tracking substitute hours. Tracking the time and attendance of all the workers in your district — substitutes included — improves the security of everyone on campus. By having your workers clock in and out of their jobs, you’ll have a record of when they were on district property, and what buildings they were in. Records like this can go a long way in investigating and exonerating individuals if a theft or worse crime occurs.

So what about you? Have your substitutes shown up? Are you prepared to prove it? Comment below to tell us how your school district is managing substitute time and attendance this year.

Daniel Caughill

Daniel is a magazine editor and freelance writer who spends most of his time procrastinating reading.