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How to Support Compliance with The Complete View of Employee Absence and Time

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Currently, most Americans are hourly workers, and their number is on the rise. Between 2011 and 2014 the hourly workforce grew by 3.3 million people (cite) and as of 2022, 82 million people, or nearly 60% of the workforce, had hourly jobs (cite). In K-12 schools, hourly workers are essential, serving in roles such as bus drivers, custodians, groundskeepers, substitute teachers, and food and nutrition service managers to name a few.

Consistently accurate and timely pay is of utmost importance to hourly workers. A survey of over 2,000 hourly workers found that pay contributes more to job satisfaction than other factors like developing good working relationships with their supervisors, enjoying their tasks, or working in convenient locations (cite). One-fifth of hourly workers’ wages net below, at, or just above the federal poverty line for a three-person household: earning less than $30,000 annually (cite). See the breakdown of hourly workers’ household incomes below.

Yearly Household Income Chart

Many Facets of the K-12 Staff Shortages

Human resources (HR) personnel are already charged with the difficult and time-consuming task of recruiting and hiring qualified workers from a depleted candidate pool. While much attention has been paid to the instructional teacher shortage, districts may also be grappling with the recruiting, hiring, and engagement of hourly workers. For instance, districts nationwide have been experiencing a shortage of bus drivers, and those drivers that districts are able to hire are often difficult to retain. The Frontline Research & Learning Institute found a 22.6% increase in bus driver job postings between 2020 and 2021, highlighting a dire need for hourly worker engagement.

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Similarly, data from the Institute shows that nearly half of substitute teachers didn’t work during the 2021-2022 school year. This followed the typical trend, and on average, those substitute teachers who did take a job worked less than once per week.

Hourly workers are also more mobile in the job market than their salaried peers. While half of salaried workers reported that they are likely to seek a new job in the near future, more than two-thirds of hourly workers indicated their desire to leave their position for something new (cite).

Ensuring that hourly employee time and attendance records are processed in a timely way and that these essential workers are compensated accurately may increase engagement and lead to higher retention. Additionally, migrating these processes to a web-based technology may free up HR personnel to focus on other challenges like ensuring that classrooms are staffed and instructional time is preserved.

FLSA Investigations in K-12

Labor laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) add a layer of accountability for employers’ accurate recordkeeping of data related to hourly employee time and pay. The FLSA requires employers to keep detailed records for each non-exempt employee, including:

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The number of hours worked each day

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The total number of hours worked each week

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The basis on which the employee’s wages are paid (e.g., $9 per hour or $440 per week)

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All additions to or deductions from the employee’s wages

Wages Pay Period Icon

The total wages paid each pay period, and the date of payment and pay period covered by payment

The FLSA requires that these comprehensive records be maintained and made accessible in the event of inspection for a minimum of three years. Each inconsistency or violation, even those attributed to human error, may result in civil monetary penalties of up to $1,000. In the past decade, 178 school systems from 36 states were audited for FLSA compliance. Of those school systems, 56% were found to be out of compliance, amassing 1,619 overall violations totaling $1.3 million in back wages and penalties (cite).

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In addition to laws about hours worked and fair pay, districts must also adhere to bargaining agreements with multiple unions that protect their various employee groups. HR officers must shoulder the stress of running payroll and benefits for the large numbers of employees in their districts. Lost and inaccurate time sheets, calculation and data input errors, misclassified time, and failure to transfer timesheets to payroll are likely hazards of working with paper-based processes or disconnected software systems, and come with costly consequences.

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Time Tracking and Attendance

Luckily, districts have numerous options for tracking hourly employee time tracking and attendance. Most systems fall into one of three categories with varying risk of error and time commitment for HR and payroll personnel. These include manual or paper-based processes, hybrid technology and comprehensive technology.

Manual or Paper-Based

A manual or paper-based time tracking system requires employees to record hours worked by hand and submit physical time sheets. HR personnel transfer time and attendance information from paper timesheets to paper databases and then send time records to supervisors for approval before they are sent to payroll. A simple error in recordkeeping like misclassification of time worked can result in a laborious reroute of paperwork, delayed payment, and a dissatisfied worker. Consider the steps necessary in a manual process to accurately account for an hourly worker who logs hours at two different buildings within the same organization, compared to the same process handled with technology.

Manual, Paper-based

(more time / high risk)

  • Employee fills out timesheet
  • Employee places timesheet on supervisor’s desk
  • Supervisor reviews timesheets and signs for approval
  • Timesheet collected by district courier and delivered to district office
  • Payroll reviews timesheets
  • Payroll identifies missing data
  • Payroll sends timesheets back to supervisor via district courier
  • Supervisor informs Employee of missing information
  • Employee fills out an additional field trip timesheet and submits back to supervisor
  • Supervisor approves and signs
  • Timesheet and field trip timesheet collected by district courier and delivered to district office
  • Payroll reviews timesheet and field trip timesheet
  • Payroll applies special Accounting Code to field trip timesheet
  • Timesheets sent to Transportation Director for approval; Transportation Director approves
  • Field trip timesheet sent to Assistant Superintendent for approval of Accounting Code
  • Assistant Superintendent approves
  • Timesheet sent to Payroll for manual entry in payroll
Manual Paper Process Infographics

Hybrid Technology

(more time / medium risk)

Many districts use separate systems to track employee absences and time worked. This may be a mix of paper-based processes and software-based processes or a mix of different software for different purposes. In either case, supervisors and payroll staff are still left to manually reconcile employee leave and working time across solutions. This type of review can be just as tedious as a wholly paper process, as it is still a manual review.

Comprehensive Technology

(less time / low risk)

A comprehensive technology system lets districts proactively manage employee absences, substitutes, and time and attendance without manual reconciliation. Both negative time (time off) and positive time (working time) can be reviewed simultaneously in one spot, reducing opportunity for error.

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Data Generated by Hourly Employee Time Tracking

The sheer volume of data generated by time tracking and leave management processes can overburden even the most dedicated human resources officers.

The Frontline Research & Learning Institute analyzed the time-tracking data generated by over 2,000 school districts nationwide during the 2021-2022 school year. According to the Institute’s analysis, the average school district had:

Employees Logging Time Graphic

hourly employees logging time

Payroll Records Generated Graphic

payroll records generated by each hourly employee, on average

Payroll Records Overtime Graphic

of payroll records including at least 1 hour of overtime pay

The data suggests that the average district generates nearly 82,000 payroll records for hourly employees each year, or nearly 2,000 payroll records that HR and payroll departments need to process per week. Further, of those 82,000 records, about 24,000 of them will require customized payroll to account for overtime work. This alone would surely burden any manual process.

Managing hourly employee leave time adds to the volume and complication of data tracking. Of the hourly workers in the sample, the average worker created more than 14 absences during the school year that not only needed to be accurately tracked on their payroll records but also had to be filled by a substitute worker who would have their own payroll record.

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There is no denying that employee time tracking generates a great quantity of data. Outdated management processes that depend heavily on human accuracy can lead to challenges that could otherwise be avoided. They require HR employees to process records quickly and precisely to mitigate hourly staff disengagement and turnover. They also require payroll employees to ensure correct records are kept and reported to avoid labor law and collective bargaining agreement violations. A configurable, integrated, web-based time management software system can help remedy these challenges.

Automate Time Tracking and Eliminate Paperwork

A web-based integrated leave and attendance management system eliminates paperwork and the headache of manual data entry and calculation. An automated leave and attendance management system can collect time information, do away with entry and calculation errors, and apply pay rules to ensure compliance with state and federal labor laws and union negotiations.

“Their time sheets were on paper. The substitutes who filled those absences were on paper. Everything was paper.”

Michelle Cassell, Director of Finance, Grayson County Public Schools

“It’s translated to me being able to work more strategically, because I can focus on big rocks now versus trying to figure out how we’re going to get all of these files ready for the auditor.”

Valerie Anderson, HR Director, Great Plains Technology Center (GPTC) in Oklahoma

Integrate Time Tracking with Other Human Capital Management Systems

Having a sophisticated web-based attendance management system is the first step to alleviating the data burden of tracking the time worked by hundreds of employees. An attendance management system that integrates with leave management software can automatically populate timecards indicating an employee’s absence as well as automatically place a substitute to fill the absence.

Accurately tracking an employee’s time is only one piece of their work lifecycle. To complete the process, a leave and attendance management system should integrate with payroll so that hours worked match dollars earned.

Use a Leave and Attendance Management System that was Built for K-12 Personnel

Education is distinct from other industries in that employees are protected by different unions and labor laws. A leave and attendance management system not designed for K-12 schools may not be able to accommodate the intricacies of these protections or provide the flexibility that school employees need.

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Recommended Resources

  • Clocking Out of Timecard Misery

    Case Study Clocking Out of Timecard Misery

    How Grayson County Public Schools found a better way to keep track of employee time.

  • Empty Classrooms: The Big Picture of Teacher Absenteeism

    Article Empty Classrooms: The Big Picture of Teacher Absenteeism

    Learn what your district can do to manage teacher absences.

  • Frontline Absence & Time

    Frontline Solution Frontline Absence & Time

    Proactively manage employee absences, substitutes, and time and attendance – all in one system.

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