In considering how to address frequent overtime, there are several questions to ask before deciding on a course of action. Do you suspect one or more of your employees is intentionally loitering on the job to collect a bigger paycheck? Do you find yourself spending more on payroll due to frequent early arrivals and late departures?

If overtime has become a source of stress for you, take a look at your employees’ habits. The FLSA states that employees who voluntarily arrive before their regular starting time or stay after their regular ending time are not entitled to pay provided they do not do any work during that time. If they do work however and exceed working 40 hours in a workweek, they are entitled to one-and-a-half times their normal rate of pay.

If you want to tighten the reins on overtime, here are a number of methods we suggest that can help:

Enforce a Policy

If you don’t currently have a company policy addressing overtime, create one, and enforce it using disciplinary action. Employment law expert Shirley McAllister endorses creating a formal policy that explicitly states that employees may not punch in early or out late, and must have all OT approved by a supervisor. Make sure your entire staff is aware of company policy and the consequences for failing to comply with the overtime rules.

Employees who refuse to abide by these rules could be written up, suspended, or even terminated. If it comes to that, be sure to document their refusal to follow the directions of their immediate supervisor and obey company policy. To avoid an ugly scene, you can also try the next suggestion to prevent excessive overtime in a way that’s fair but firm.

Enforce Schedule Changes to Curb OT

To cut overtime off directly at the source, monitor your employees’ worked time to catch them whenever they come in late or leave early. Then, enforce schedule changes to prevent overtime from occurring. If an employee comes in early, have them leave early. If an employee stays late, have them take a longer lunch the next day or come in later and leave on time. Again, if the behavior continues despite a supervisor’s instructions, this behavior can be considered insubordinate, which can result in termination.

Use Time and Attendance Tools

If your employers are coming into work just a few minutes early or leaving a few minutes late, try rounding instead of tracking straight time. Using a time clock to round is a practice approved by the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the overtime standards for most private and public employers in the United States.

Rounding is legal so long as employers make sure to round both ways, up and down, so sometimes the employee is paid for a few extra minutes and sometimes the employee is docked a few minutes. FingerCheck allows employers to implement rounding with standard rules or customized rules and lets managers set “strict in” and “strict out” times that round employee’s start/end times to the scheduled times.

Don’t: Adjust Punch Times Behind an Employee’s Back

Changing a time card punch is a labor infraction that could prompt a labor lawsuit. There may be extenuating circumstance but it’s still wrong and calls into question the recordkeeping practices at your company. Instead of interfering with your employees’ recorded work times, try monitoring your staff and using one of the aforementioned workarounds to discipline them instead.

Remember, whether it’s to meet a deadline or tackle a particularly large bout of work, sometimes employees need to work overtime. However, if your employees are taking excessive amounts of overtime and don’t respond to verbal warnings, you have the right to enforce disciplinary action.

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