Access Control Time & Attendance Guide

Published Sep 24, 2019 12:48 PM
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Access control systems can do more than lock doors. With little or no extra equipment, they can be used to track labor hours for employees too.

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In this guide, we examine how access can also be used for 'Time & Attendance' including:

  • How access is used as time clocks
  • Why access logs make time tracking easy
  • Integrating payroll is more than custom reports
  • Biometric readers are a natural fit for Time readers
  • The risks of time drift, single points of failure, and Anti-Passback confusion
  • The benefits of centralized employee management
  • The surprisingly low or free cost of adding Time & Attendance to Access

Event stamps make Time and Attendance easy

One of the most powerful access features is the time/date stamp associated with every event in a system.

Not only do systems log when doors open, but they also record whose credential was used to open them, typically down to the second, making them ideal for keeping track of employee attendance. These logs have even been used to solve murders and otherwise establish presence at certain times with high precision.

Access as a Time Clock

All functions and features of manual time clocks are present in access used with time and attendance readers.

Frequently, a networked access reader replaces an old-fashioned time clock that punches exact times and dates on cards:

Especially when workers are paid an hourly wage, clearly establishing when they start their job and when they stop working is crucial, as that time corresponds to wages.

Using the access system for Time & Attendance often means setting aside separate readers for the sole purpose of recording 'In' and 'Out' entries in the system. Once a pay period closes, a report is created listing activity on these readers, summing the 'In' periods and subtracting the 'Out' intervals leaving an accurate record of attendance.

Payroll Integration

When access platforms tout 'time and attendance' function, this is can mean more than just generating custom reports.

Generally ''Time & Attendance' is included in the access platform, but an additional module is added for event tracking, labor classification, and payroll system integration.

The screenshot below show an example 'payroll' export screen of Time and Attendance data:

Biometrics Help Time and Attendance

In order to avoid 'passback' (or sharing credentials), Time and Attendance readers often include biometrics like fingerprints. By requiring biometrics, the risk of employees misrepresenting themselves as another person is minimized.

Most modern access Time & Attendance readers feature biometrics, typically resembling the examples below:

These style of readers are sometimes sold as 'standalone' time clock systems that require no access system interface, but this increases cost due to managing separate systems. When deploying them with access systems, these readers are simply another interface to collect data.

Risks Using Access For Time & Attendance

However, combining Time & Attendance with access has risks too. The three main risks to be aware of are:

  • Clock Drift
  • Single Point of Failure
  • Anti-Passback Conflict

Clock Drift

For Time and Attendance, all reader time clocks must remain time synchronized, and even slight differences between access and other timepieces can create significant problems.

A number of solutions for synchronizing network time exist, such as NTP Servers and central data clocks, but system configuration must include them when time and attendance is implemented.

Single Point of Failure

With combined systems, if your access control drops offline, so does your Time Clock.

When the access system falls offline, no simple solution typically exists for Time and Attendance failover and manual labor-intensive methods are often the backup.

Anti-Passback Conflicts

For access systems using 'Anti-Passback' controls, logic discrepancies can cause low-level conflicts with Time Clock readers.

If an employee scans 'In' to the timeclock, and then immediately scans 'In' to an anti-passback protected door, the access system may generate an alarm or deny access unless the timeclock reader is isolated from passback rules.

Given the large number of doors across multiple sites, or large populations of employees in a single system, these sort of errors can be common and hard to troubleshoot.

Benefits Using Access For Time & Attendance

However, it makes good business sense to use access to host 'Time and Attendance' function, including:

Less to Buy, Maintain

While a single system can be a weakness, it can also be efficient. Many facilities prioritize the upkeep of facility access systems, and issuing a credential for access also means it can be used for payroll. The investment in one facility system can be leveraged by another.

Expanded Security Controls

In normal use, if an employee has a security credential revoked in an access system, they immediately become invalid in the payroll system. In addition, tying the two systems together can prevent an unauthorized employee from gaining access to a 'Time In' reader before an allotted shift and help manage overtime payouts, and payroll hour allocations are enforceable by physical access controls.

Often Free or Low-Cost Add

Adding Time & Attendance to access is often not a big expense, and is sometimes even included in basic access systems.

In many cases, the function is added to generate custom reports that are manually uploaded into payroll systems. The image example is from Hikvision, but free versions are available in many other platforms like Dahua, ZK Teco, and Paxton:

Time   Attendance Optional, but Often Low Cost or Free

In other cases, especially when payroll system integration is used, the cost of licensing Time & Attendance is often an extra module added to base access or per readers used as time clocks.

In general, the cost is still low and $150 - $500 license to enterprise platforms like LenelS2 and Software House.

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