So — someone forgot to submit their timesheet. Annoying? Yes. World-ending? Thankfully, no. Mistakes happen, and while a late timesheet can create some problems, there are steps you can take to make things right.
The Big Picture
- It’s an employer’s responsibility to pay workers on time, and to maintain proper records (including timesheets).
- Employees who submit late timesheets could be subject to disciplinary action, but can take swift action to correct the oversight.
- The best way to prevent late timesheets is a solid time tracking system that minimizes human error and streamlines timesheet submission.
So, a timesheet is late. What happens next?
Just because a timesheet is late doesn’t mean an employer has a right to withhold — or even delay — a worker’s wages. Ultimately, it’s the employer’s responsibility to keep track of their workers’ hours.
They’re also required to keep a record of hours worked for a minimum of 3 years, according to federal law. That’s why it’s important to create policies surrounding timesheets and other safeguards to reduce the likelihood of this scenario. For example, automating time tracking with time clock software can ensure hours worked are submitted on time each pay period.
How do you pay an hourly employee when you don’t know how many hours are worked?
Like we mentioned, it’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure an employee is paid for hours worked. But with no timesheet, keeping this record is going to be a problem. If this is your scenario, here are the options
- Option 1: Work with the employee to submit a late timesheet.
- Option 2: Use the employee’s schedule as a reference for work hours.
- Option 3: Ask their supervisor to report their hours worked.
The easiest option is to have employees and supervisors work together to submit the late timesheet. If this isn’t an option, you may want to rely on the employee’s schedule to figure out their hours worked, and then correct discrepancies (such as overpayment) later on. You can also ask their supervisor to report their direct report’s hours worked, since they should have a good idea of when the employee was actually in.
What to Do if You Forget to Submit Your Own Timesheet
If you forget to submit your timesheet, don’t panic. It’s important to navigate the situation with a professional attitude. Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes maturity to own up to it with grace.
So, if your timesheet is late, will you still get paid? Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employer can’t deny pay for actual hours worked. That said, a late timesheet submission creates some practical challenges for payroll that may delay your correct payment, or require a recollection of overpayment down the road.
Here’s how to handle the situation so you can get paid the correct amount on time.
Step 1: Notify your supervisor immediately.
It’s best practice to notify your supervisor about your timesheet’s lateness in writing. We recommend sending a polite email. Include an apology for the oversight, as well as an explanation, if necessary.
Step 2: Submit your timesheet promptly.
Better late than never! Be sure to complete your timesheet and submit it as soon as you can. Double-check that your hours are accurately filled out, and include a note, if applicable.
Step 3: Adhere to your company’s policy.
Your employer may have a procedure in place that addresses what to do in the event of late timesheet submissions. Be sure to follow these timekeeping requirements to the letter. For example, you may have to fill out additional paperwork when submitting a timesheet after its due date.
Step 4: Learn from the mistake.
Submit your timesheet late once, it’ll be chalked up to human error. But you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Set a timesheet reminder to submit on time, like a recurring calendar notification, to prevent this situation in the future.
What to Do if Your Employee Forgets to Submit Their Timesheet
If your employee forgets to submit their timesheet, act promptly. Hopefully, they’ll remember on their own and reach out to rectify the situation. If not, you’ll need to track it down.
It’s an employer’s responsibility to keep track of hours worked for non-exempt employees. Additionally, you’re legally obligated to pay employees for all hours worked, regardless of their error. We’ll explain more about this later, but first, here are the steps you should take when employees forget their timesheets.
Step 1: Reach out to the employee.
Give your employee a friendly reminder about the missed timesheet submission. Politely ask if the employee needs any assistance to complete or submit the timesheet. Additionally, make sure they have access to the proper resources for timesheet submission (like login credentials for your company’s time tracking software).
Step 2: Set a new deadline.
When you connect with your employee, set a new timeframe to submit their timesheet. For example, if you connect at the beginning of their shift, ask them to submit their hours worked by the end of the day. Set this deadline down in writing so that everyone’s on the same page.
Step 3: Review the late timesheet.
Once your employee submits their timesheet, give a quick once-over. You’ll want to make sure it’s correctly filled out to prevent any further delays. If you notice something is missing, reach out to the employee for clarity before submitting it to your payroll provider.
Step 4: Document what happened.
Once the timesheet has been submitted, you should create a record of what happened. Include the date the employee submitted the timesheet, as well as the date when it was forwarded for payroll processing. This documentation will be helpful if any compliance issues arise, or if this becomes a recurring performance issue.
Step 5: Follow up.
If your timekeeping procedures establish consequences for late submissions, apply them consistently and fairly. Likewise, take the opportunity to coach your employee on the importance of meeting deadlines and ask them to come up with a plan to prevent the situation from happening again.
Why Timesheets Matter
If you’re working with an employee who chronically submits late timesheets, you may start to question the value of timesheets altogether. However, they’re actually pretty important. Here are some of the reasons why.
- Accurate Payroll. While a work schedule tells you when to report to work, timesheets provide a record of the actual hours worked by employees. They help employees get paid for including overtime, breaks, and any other time-related factors that affect compensation for hourly workers.
- Labor Cost Analysis. Worker timesheets enable businesses to analyze and understand labor costs. By tracking hours worked, companies can build more effective teams while also assessing the profitability of projects, departments, or specific tasks. This information helps in budgeting, cost control, and making informed decisions regarding resource allocation (like hiring).
- Labor Law Compliance. As mentioned earlier, timesheets play a vital role in complying with labor laws and regulations. Accurate time records support proper compensation, adhere to statutory requirements such as minimum wage and overtime regulations, and maintain compliance with record keeping standards at the federal level (states may have more stringent requirements).
- Project Management. For project managers, timesheets offer invaluable insight for resource planning. They help monitor the time spent on various projects, tasks, or clients, aiding in project tracking, estimating future workloads, and identifying areas where productivity improvements can be made.
- Client Billing. For businesses that invoice clients on an hourly basis, timesheets are essential. They provide a transparent breakdown of billable hours and serve as supporting documentation for client billing, promoting trust and accountability.
- Performance Evaluation. Depending on what data they include, timesheets can provide useful details for evaluating employee performance. At a minimum, they show a record of attendance. But they can go further, tracking time spent on different activities, tasks, and client projects. This helps managers assess productivity, as well as areas of strength or weakness, helping to improve their teams.
- Legal Protection. Because timesheets serve as a legal record of hours worked, they can be invaluable in the event of disputes or legal issues. They provide evidence of work hours and can be used to address issues related to overtime, leave, attendance, or other employment-related matters. And, as previously mentioned, timesheet records help comply with federal labor laws.
In short, it’s not enough to simply make a mental note of when your employees worked. Timesheets are important records that are necessary for legal reasons. They’re also essential for payroll for non-exempt workers.
How to Prevent Late Timesheets
If you want to prevent late timesheets, the best strategy is to take timesheet submission off your employees’ plates. Regardless of whether or not that’s an option, you’ll also want to emphasize the importance of deadlines and accountability. This will benefit not only your time tracking strategy, but your workplace culture.
3 Tips for Timely Timesheets
- Clear Communication and Expectations. Everyone should be well aware of the importance of submitting timesheets on time. Communicate not only deadlines, but also the impact of late submissions on payroll processing, project management, and overall business operations. Set clear expectations regarding the consequences of late submissions (which can be included in your time tracking policy).
- Send Reminders. Schedule automated email reminders a few days before a timesheet deadline. This will give employees enough time to review and submit their entries. You should also follow up with individual reminders for employees who consistently submit late timesheets. Keep an open line of communication so workers can let you know if they anticipate any roadblocks to their timesheet’s submission.
- Automated Time Tracking Systems. The easiest way to get your timesheets on time is to let software automate the process for you. Choose a system that offers features like automated reminders, mobile accessibility, and easy submission methods (e.g., online forms, mobile apps) to make it convenient for employees to submit their hours worked. Streamlining the submission process reduces barriers, increases compliance, and saves time (time is money, after all).
Upgrading Your Time Tracking System
If timesheet submission is a consistent problem for you, it’s time to check the method. Your time tracking system may itself be the issue — not your employees.
If you’re using paper timesheets, have your employees leave them in a central area at their worksite. That way, your payroll personnel can retrieve them on a designated date. The downside of this is that paper timesheets are prone to human error, and picking them up by the deadline can be a hassle.
If you’re tracking timesheets digitally, you’ll need software to automate the process. Electronic time clocks can help. Cloud-based time clock software like OnTheClock is a more convenient alternative, as it can be used on any device.
Online time clocks can be accessed anywhere there’s an internet connection. Time clocks like OnTheClock are fully customizable to meet your business’s unique needs, and can be configured to work at specific job sites. Most importantly, they eliminate the need for your employees to manually submit timesheets — simply send their records to your payroll provider when they’re due.
OnTheClock is priced to be affordable for growing businesses. We also offer hands-on support from time tracking specialists to get your account set up exactly the way you need it. Your first 30 days for free — no credit card required, so give it a try and see how easy timesheets can be.
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Frequently asked questions
It’s an employer’s responsibility to keep track of their workers’ hours. While you can delegate this task to employees and let them self-report on their timesheets, you still have a legal obligation to maintain records of how much they were paid. That’s why it’s important to address late timesheets as soon as possible, and to implement a time tracking system that minimizes the possibility of late submissions.
No, an employer cannot withhold pay just because an employee submits a late timesheet. While you may rely on employees to self-report their hours, it’s ultimately the employer’s responsibility to make sure that workers are paid correctly by designated paydays. So in the event of a missing timesheet, you’ll need to either track it down, or rely on the employee’s schedule to make up their paycheck.
Yes — in certain situations. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, it’s the employer’s responsibility to maintain accurate records of hours worked and pay. So employers may need to occasionally change timesheets to fix mistakes or fill in missing hours.
For example, if your employee forgot to clock in or out, you’ll need to fill in the blank. However, modifying a worker’s timesheet with the intent to pay them less than what they’ve earned is wage theft, which is unethical and illegal. You can only change timesheets when correcting errors — not to withhold pay.