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Time and attendance systems at work: are the days of clocking in over?

Companies can still make great digital leaps forward with their time and attendance systems at work

Brussels 3 December 2019 – Employees are (still) clocking in when they arrive at work at a huge number of companies in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Eight out of ten companies register when their employees start and stop work using a conventional time and attendance (T&A) system: a card reader, a time clock, Excel sheets, or even paper. An international study by HR service provider SD Worx and specialist in time registration and personnel planning Protime has found that digital and biometric alternatives – such as logging in with an app or fingerprint scan – are far less common.

European companies can still make significant 'digital progress' in their time and attendance systems for their employees: almost eight out of ten companies in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are using conventional time registration systems, such as card readers (22.8%), time clocks (19.4%), Excel sheets (23.4%), or paper (12.2%). 

Germany is especially conventional in this respect: no less than 85% of companies are not yet using the latest forms of time registration systems. The time clock is still the most popular option there (31%). In the Netherlands, however, time clocks have all but disappeared: only 5% of companies are still using them. Another result that stood out was that in the United Kingdom, the most popular time and attendance system is still pen and paper (22%) (see overview in Figure 1).


    Figure 1. Time and attendance methods used by companies in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK

      Digital and biometric solutions

      There are other T&A registration methods available, such as logging in with (mobile) applications that may use geolocation for verification purposes. On average, 18% of the surveyed companies that record time and attendance are already using such applications. Dutch companies score significantly higher than average in that regard: in the Netherlands, 32% of employees log in with an app. Geolocation apps have barely gained a foothold in Germany, with just 1% of companies using them.

      We are now at the stage where biometric methods for logging in – e.g. via fingerprint or iris scan – are available. Most companies that record time and attendance do not seem to be ready for this technology just yet: only 2.6% are currently using biometric T&A systems (see overview in Figure 1).

      "The reason for the limited use of biometrics is the GDPR," explains Geert Vermeir, manager at the SD Worx Legal Knowledge Centre. "Put simply, any invasion of privacy must be as limited as possible in order to achieve the intended purpose. Biometric data is highly sensitive, far more so than a badge or electronic login, for example. Unless there are additional, well-founded reasons for stricter controls – such as fraud prevention, sensitive data protection or site security – they can't be used simply as a time and attendance system." 

      Peter s'Jongers, CEO of Protime: "It seems like a paradox: with the rise of flexible working methods such as flexitime, the need for overview is becoming increasingly important. If no one keeps track of how much you actually work, burn-out is just around the corner. The modern time clock, which not only registers your time via mobile applications but can also link to your productivity, will therefore become even more important in the future. In this way, personnel planning can be adjusted in good time if the workload is too high and burn-outs can be prevented."

        Managers also use time and attendance data for personnel planning

        The international survey by SD Worx and Protime also shows that in 55% of cases, the T&A data is used for other purposes, too. The most popular applications are: an analysis of billable versus non-billable hours (38%) and personnel planning for the potential recruitment of additional staff (35%). The latter fits in perfectly with the talent supply chain management structure that companies need to adopt in order to ensure the inflow, deployment and retention of suitable employees.

        The flexible adjustment of personnel planning (35%) – based on weather forecasts, for example – and (longer-term advance) personnel planning (34%) are two other areas that T&A data is used for. Almost three out of ten interviewees (29%) also indicated that they use the T&A tool in combination with payroll systems to determine employees' bonuses.

        A total of 45% of companies use T&A data solely to register the time and attendance of their employees.

          More information

          Pieter Goetgebuer
          PR & Corporate Communication Manager SD Worx Group
          T +32 (0)3 201 76 68 / M +32 (0)497 45 36 73


            The online survey was answered by 502 senior professionals across Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK. The sample is representative of the specific local labour markets, with the same composition as to statute (blue-collar) workers, office workers and civil servants, gender, region, work regime, language, educational degree and organisation size as that of the active labour population in the countries concerned. 

              About Protime

              Protime was founded in 1995 and is the market leader in workforce management (WFM) and collaborative solutions. An ongoing focus on innovation enables Protime to provide solutions in workforce management to a wide and varied range of clients and markets. Today Protime has over 5,000 installations across Europe. Protime has been voted a "Great Place to Work" for seven consecutive years and has won the title of "Best Managed Company" twice in a row. Protime currently employs more than 280 members of staff at its offices in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Protime is part of the SD Worx Group.

                About SD Worx

                As a leading European provider of payroll and HR solutions, SD Worx guides organisations in managing their existing and new workforce, with a full-service package in the areas of staffing, payroll, time and talent. SD Worx delivers the most suitable approach for every situation, providing the insights, expertise, outsourcing services and technology that HR decision-makers need for their organisation and individuals to thrive. Today, more than 68,000 small and large organisations across the globe place their trust in SD Worx and its almost 75 years of experience. In 2018, SD Worx achieved a consolidated turnover of EUR 594.4 million with its two entities.

                SD Worx Group offers its payroll and HR outsourcing services, software and consultancy services in 92 countries, calculates the salaries of approximately 4.6 million employees and ranks among the top five worldwide. The more than 4,150 employees at SD Worx operate in ten countries: Belgium (HQ), Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK. It is the co-founder of the Payroll Services Alliance, a global strategic network of leading payroll companies that together handle 32 million payroll calculations.

                Since 2018, SD Worx Staffing Solutions has been offering flexible and temporary employment, secondment, recruitment and selection, outplacement and career guidance services in Belgium and the Netherlands. SD Worx Staffing Solutions has more than 450 employees and employs an average of 5,500 temps on a daily basis through its more than 3,000 customers. 

                More information at: www.sdworx.com