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The Best Time and Attendance Systems of 2021

Laura Handrick
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
| Updated
Jun 28, 2021

Here are the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, including cloud services, timeclocks and apps for mobile workforces.
Best Overall for Small Businesses
Starting price: $2.70 to $3 per employee per month
Best for Businesses With a Mobile Workforce
QuickBooks Time
Starting price: $20 monthly base fee + $8 per employee per month
Best for Restaurants and Retail
When I Work
Starting price: $2 per employee per month
Best for On-Site
Starting price: $199 licensing fee
Featured Sponsor
Prices start at $8 per user, per month
Here are the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, including cloud services, timeclocks and apps for mobile workforces.
Updated 06/28/21

This page has been updated to include tips about how to choose a time and attendance system, and the benefits of doing so.

  • Time and attendance systems digitize the process of tracking when employees start and end their shifts.
  • These systems offer mobile apps and remote clock-in options for a distributed or remote workforce.
  • Time and attendance systems offer workforce reports and exports that provide data to your payroll system.
  • This article is for small business owners and HR professionals who are looking for a time and attendance system.

Time and attendance systems are critical for tracking how long employees are working each day. The best solutions are easy to use, give employees multiple ways to clock in and out, manage paid time off (PTO) and easily integrate with your payroll service. To find the best time and attendance systems for small businesses, we examined more than 100 options and made our selections based on a number of factors, including cost, ease of use, integration options and valuable features.

Time and Attendance Review Summary

Time and Attendance Providers Researched 10
Minimum Monthly License Fee $2 per employee
Maximum Monthly License Fee $8 per employee
Free Trial Available 30 day

Find the Right Time and Attendance System for Your Business

Fill out this questionnaire to find vendors that meet your needs.

Our Reviews

OnTheClock: Best Overall Time and Attendance System for Small Businesses

This service is free for the first two employees and $3 or less per additional employee.
OnTheClock has all of the features businesses need from a time and attendance system.
Phone support is not available on the weekend.

We chose OnTheClock as the best overall time and attendance system for small businesses because it includes solid features for a low price and received excellent reviews from current users. OnTheClock offers a scheduling feature, which is great for industries such as home health services and retail, as well as billing, which is helpful for client-focused office businesses.

Best of all, OnTheClock provides a robust free plan, as well as affordable paid options with extras such as single sign-on. To get started with OnTheClock, you just download the software; you don't need to subscribe or pay by credit card.

Read OnTheClock Review

QuickBooks Time: Best Time and Attendance System for Businesses With a Mobile Workforce

QuickBooks Time uses geotechnology to track mobile workers throughout their shifts.
There are a variety of ways workers can track their time.
It does not work with traditional timeclocks.

QuickBooks Time is an ideal time and attendance solution for businesses with employees who work in the field. Businesses with on-the-go employees want a time and attendance system that makes it easy for those workers to record their time. You want to give them the flexibility to clock in and out in multiple ways, such as via laptop, phone, mobile app or even social media. In addition, businesses with remote workers want a system that allows them to keep tabs on those employees to ensure they are working from where they should be.

April 2021: QuickBooks Time recently extended its free trial period from 14 to 30 days. Users now have an entire month to test out the software to see if it works for their needs before committing. Once the free trial ends, there are two paid plans to choose from. The Premium plan is $20 per month, plus $8 per user. The Elite plan is $40 per month, plus $10 per user.

Read QuickBooks Time Review

When I Work: Best Time and Attendance System for Restaurants and Retail

When I Work includes robust scheduling tools.
The software integrates with numerous popular payroll solutions.
If you need customer support, you will need to log in to your account to chat with a representative.

When I Work is an ideal solution for businesses that have shift workers, such as restaurants and retail stores, because it not only tracks when employees start and end their shifts but also includes free scheduling tools that allow the software to automatically compare schedules with actual hours worked. The software also offers a host of other valuable features, including photo clock-in options to prevent "buddy punching" (when workers clock in for someone else), overtime alerts and PTO management.

The software starts at $2 per employee per month, which gives you access to the scheduling tools. If you want all of the time and attendance functionality, it costs an additional $2 per employee per month. No contracts are required, and you can test out the software for 14 days for free.

Read When I Work Review

TimeClick: Best On-Site Time and Attendance System

TimeClick has a wide range of pricing plans.
You pay a one-time license fee, rather than monthly fees.
The license includes only one year of support.

TimeClick is an on-site time and attendance solution, which makes it a good fit for businesses that operate in a traditional office setting. The software allows you to accurately track when employees start and end their shifts, as well as overtime and PTO. TimeClick integrates with QuickBooks and offers more than two dozen labor reports.

Unlike cloud-hosted systems that have recurring fees each month, TimeClick only charges one-time licensing fees. Costs range from $99 to $1,199 and are based on the number of licenses and employees. TimeClick offers a 30-day free trial.

Read TimeClick Review

Rippling: Featured Sponsor

Rippling can be implemented in less than four weeks.
It integrates with more than 400 applications.
You pay an additional monthly base fee for the HR help desk.
Rippling's time and attendance system, part of its employee management platform, provides employees with the flexibility to clock in and out via tablet kiosks, mobile apps or computers. To prevent buddy punching and employees clocking in and out from locations they shouldn't be, the system includes geolocation technology, photo clock in and out requirements and QR codes. Rippling's time and attendance system is fully integrated with its payroll solution, which ensures any time that is approved within the system is automatically synced into the payroll system. Custom workflows, automated compliance tools, and more than 80 integrations are also included.
Read Rippling Review

Clockify: Best Time and Attendance System for Remote Office Workers

Clockify offers a free-forever plan.
Clockify allows employees to enter their time manually or enable a force timer to track their hours automatically.
Clockify doesn't include scheduling tools.

Clockify is a robust time and attendance system that is great for businesses with remote teams. The system allows employees to track their time using desktop apps, web browsers and mobile apps for iOS or Android. It can track hours worked on specific projects, as well as PTO, and offers integrations with a wide range of programs, including project management software and customer relationship management solutions.

May 2021: Clockify has a "forever free" plan that supports unlimited employees and projects, as well as four paid plans that offer additional features and tools. Paid plans range from $4.99 to $14.99 per user, per month if you pay monthly. You can save up to $3 per user, per month if you pay annually.

Read Clockify Review

Cost of Time and Attendance Software

There are typically two pricing models for time and attendance software. For cloud-hosted subscription services, you typically pay a recurring monthly fee based on how many employees you have. Some time and attendance solutions are on-premises systems that you download and store on your computer. For those systems, you generally pay a one-time licensing fee.

Cloud-hosted time and attendance software typically costs between $1 and $10 per month per employee. Some providers also charge a monthly fee. Other add-on charges may include fees for installation or setup. Support fees are typically included in your monthly subscription price.

If you choose a timekeeping system that you download to a computer and host on your network, your costs will range from $100 to $400 per license. Plus, you'll have to purchase computers and, in some cases, a physical time clock. In general, you'll also have to pay an annual support fee if you need technical support after your installation period is up.

Key takeaway: Cloud-hosted time and attendance systems typically cost between $1 and $10 per employee per month, and on-premises systems cost between $100 and $400 per license.

Time and Attendance Features

Time and attendance systems replace outdated wall-mounted time clocks, paper timesheets and confusing spreadsheets. They provide an easy, accurate way for employees to clock in and out. All time and attendance systems offer configurable timesheet reports that you can export to your payroll system, and most include useful features such as automations, team communications and reminders.

Here is a rundown of the many features time and attendance systems offer:

  • Time reporting: Modern timekeeping systems can interface with existing time clocks, or you can let employees clock in and out using a web browser or mobile app. Some systems let workers clock in and out via phone, Apple Watch, social media, text messages and Slack. Most let you set up rules for when employees can clock in and out, as well as calculate overtime. Some simplify time tracking for teams that work the same hours.
  • Biometrics: To prevent buddy punching, some time and attendance systems require workers to input a code, badge, fingerprint or photo when they clock in or out. This system confirms that you pay only for time worked and that you're paying each worker correctly.
  • GPS: In addition to letting employees clock in and out from their mobile devices, many time and attendance apps include geotechnology. For example, geofencing lets employers set specific coordinates from which employees can punch in and out, thereby ensuring that the employee is on the job site when they sign in. Another option is geolocation, which records specific GPS coordinates periodically (such as every hour) or each time an employee punches in or out. Employers can review those coordinates to make sure the worker was where they were supposed to be throughout the day.
  • Scheduling: Many time and attendance systems include built-in scheduling tools. You can create employee schedules for workdays, hours, appointments or shifts. Many also include scheduling templates that you can reuse from week to week.
  • Job tracking: Some systems log employee time against a specific project or task. This is a valuable tool for businesses that bill clients for the time their employees spend on project work and client tasks.
  • Alerts: Some time and attendance systems can notify managers when their employees have clocked in or out for the day. They can also remind employees to clock out and let managers know when an employee is about to work overtime.
  • Labor reports: Most systems provide reports detailing workers' hours, wages and schedules, and some systems offer advanced features, like labor costing.
  • Integrations: Most time and attendance systems integrate with your payroll service via CSV or a software interface. This saves time when you run payroll by ensuring that overtime calculations and time-off deductions are correct in your payroll system.
  • Dashboard: Some systems include a digital dashboard that gives managers an overview of which employees are punched in and out.
  • Configurations: Most time and attendance software lets you set up your own scheduling rules, swap shifts, round time up and pay for breaks.

TipTip: Before comparing time and attendance systems, identify which features you need. Some companies offer all these features bundled together, whereas others offer them on an a la carte basis.

Benefits of Time and Attendance Systems

A timekeeping system, if set up and used properly, will save your business money. When you use time and attendance software, employees can no longer round up the hours they've worked or punch in for their friends; instead, the software documents your employees' work hours. Most timekeeping tools also include scheduling software so you can determine exactly when you want employees to work. Here are some other benefits of using time and attendance software:

Ensures Accuracy

A time and attendance system eliminates manual recordkeeping, which, in turn, reduces errors. In addition, businesses can more easily demonstrate accuracy in compliance with overtime tracking rules and other labor laws.

Saves Time

Time and attendance software saves your managers and HR staff time they would have otherwise spent tallying employee work hours and transferring the information to a payroll software program. This frees up your back-office team and supervisors to focus on other business tasks.

Did you know?Did you know? When being done manually, it can take as long as six or seven minutes to add up each employee's timecard.

Insight Into One's Work Schedule

Time and attendance systems benefit employees who can see their work schedules in advance; they'll recognize they're being paid for all of the time worked. Most time and attendance systems are easy to use, as employees clock in using their computer or a mobile device. Additionally, these systems provide employees with self-service details, like total hours worked, weekly schedules, and time-off accruals and requests.

Key takeaway: Time and attendance software reduces errors, saves time and gives employees visibility into their schedules. 

Time and Attendance FAQs

Do You Need New Time and Attendance Software?

If you are still using paper timesheets or a traditional punch time clock, your business will benefit from a digital time and attendance system. First off, it reduces the chances of time-related errors with your payroll. Most of these systems integrate with payroll services by uploading the timesheet data into your payroll program. No one has to calculate time punches manually and re-enter them into the payroll software – a process that's more likely to result in errors.

Time and attendance systems allow businesses to create electronic schedules, manage PTO and store employees' schedules, work hours, break time, time off, overtime and paid hours in one place. That means you'll no longer need to dig for data in paper files when an employee or your payroll provider has a question.

How Do You Evaluate Time and Attendance ROI?

You may pay $1 to $10 per employee per month for a time and attendance system, but the savings you get in return can far outweigh the cost.

According to Sierra Workforce Solutions, one way businesses can save money by using a digital time and attendance system is by eliminating inaccurate clock-in and clock-out times. For example, with manual timekeeping, an employee might round up their time out from 4:50 p.m. to 5 p.m. or round down their lunch break from 40 minutes to 30 minutes. Time and attendance systems eliminate this type of punch rounding and ensure that employees are paid only for the time they actually work.

You'll also save money by

  • reducing the paid hours that managers, admins or HR staff spend in gathering and calculating timecards and
  • by decreasing manual data entry errors that result in time spent fixing payments.

To determine the return on investment, Sierra calculated the time spent adding up timecards (using a previous study's results of six minutes per card) plus the savings in time theft (according to the previous study's results, the average employee steals over four hours per week) plus human error mistakes, which it estimates to be 0.25%. With these numbers, Sierra estimated that a business with 100 employees would save nearly $5,000 per month or close to $60,000 per year. You can see more details on the calculations here.

You will also reduce the risk of labor-law fines and back pay, which are common if employee time isn't calculated and paid correctly.

What Should You Expect Time and Attendance Systems to Do?

You should expect your time and attendance system to handle your hourly and salaried employees' time-tracking needs, including overtime.

At the very least, look for a timekeeping solution that offers multiple ways to clock in and out, gives remote workers the ability to punch in and out from wherever they are and integrates with the payroll software you use. Other useful features include the ability to generate and assign employee schedules, manage PTO tracking and approvals, log how long employees work on specific projects, and monitor the locations your remote employees are clocking in and out from each day.

How Does an Employee Time Clock Work?

An employee time clock provides a record of when an employee is working. For traditional punch clocks, an employee takes a paper timecard and inserts it into the time clock machine, and it records on the card what time the employee clocked in or out.

Digital time clocks (computers, kiosks and mobile devices) record the time directly in the time and attendance software, using a secure method to avoid time theft. Examples are a login ID, PIN, swipe card or biometrics (such as fingerprint, photo or facial scans).

To What Extent Is Employee Time Tracking Integrated With Payroll and HR?

Employee time tracking is an input for payroll, especially for employees who are paid by the hour. To properly pay your workers, you need to know how many hours they work each day, week and pay period.

The best time and attendance systems integrate with your payroll and HR software either by uploading a CSV file or automatically transferring timesheet data into your payroll and HR software through a digital interface. This saves time and cuts down on errors while transferring work hours from one program to another.

Why Is It Important to Clock in and out at Work?

The biggest benefit of having employees clock in and out is to ensure you are paying employees for all hours worked, per federal and state labor laws. Plus, you don't want to be paying employees for time they aren't working. A digital time and attendance system gives employers precise details on when employees are working and when they aren't.

Using a biometric time clock, which makes employees punch in and out with a fingerprint or retinal scan, also prevents buddy punching – in other words, it ensures employees clock in themselves rather than having someone else do it for them. If not curbed, buddy punching can cost your business money and reduce productivity and morale.

Accurate timekeeping also gives employers a better handle on staffing. With time and attendance  software, you can compare employees' schedules with the busiest days and times for your business, and adjust staffing levels accordingly.

How Are Time and Attendance Managed With a PEO?

As a co-employer, a professional employer organization (PEO) will require you to manage employee time and attendance per labor law. They'll likely provide a time and attendance app that lives on the same platform as other HR functions, like payroll and benefits administration.

For example, when an employee records their time for the day, that data automatically populates in the software, thus saving you from duplicate data entry that could lead to payroll errors. This ensures employees are paid correctly each pay period.

Why Is It Important to Document Employee Time and Attendance?

A time and attendance system can help employers save money, improve team productivity and aid in legal compliance, because time records serve as a legal document and must be kept for a minimum of two years in most states.

Having an accurate log of when employees are – and aren't – working ensures that each staff member is on-site when they're supposed to be and that they're being paid only for the hours they work. Having a record of the hours employees have worked helps employers manage their staffing levels optimally so they are not under- or overstaffed.

Time and attendance reports can also serve as proof that employers are following the appropriate employment and labor laws – for example, adhering to youth attendance laws, paying overtime, and tracking required paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.

What Is a Reasonable Attendance Policy?

Some organizations need strict attendance policies to function properly, while others may offer flexible work schedules. Most employers require workers to call in when they are going to be late or miss work. Many document each tardy occurrence, and some terminate employees who fail to show up for work after one, two or three days.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time worker misses almost three days per year. In some industries, such as service occupations, the absence rate is higher. When drafting your company's attendance policy, consider your industry and your company culture, as well as the demands of the business.

For example, one employer may find it acceptable for an office worker to be 30 minutes late to their shift, because there is flexibility in when they work. A manufacturer or retailer, on the other hand, may not tolerate such tardiness or an unauthorized absence because it may affect the business's ability to function.

Once you've created your company's attendance policy, you should meet with your employees to review the policy and ensure workers understand what is expected of them.

What to Expect in 2021

Artificial intelligence (AI) will integrate further with time and attendance systems in 2021, collecting and analyzing employee data to provide information to employers to assist them with staffing, scheduling and other labor needs. 

Employers can also expect more self-service capabilities. With so many working remotely now, companies are looking for tools that allow employees to access their work schedules and accurately self-record the hours they work, paid time off and sick leave. In industries with unpredictable or continuously changing schedules, employees especially need systems that provide timely alerts.

The increased use of chatbots, which are powered by AI, will further streamline the time management process for employers and employees. Instead of employees turning to their managers or HR with questions about their timesheets or time-off requests, they'll be able to ask and get instant answers from their time and attendance systems' built-in chatbots. 

Current coronavirus precautionary measures are also affecting HR procedures and how time and attendance systems are used, specifically clocking in and out. The New York Police Department has banned biometric timeclocks as a precaution to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among its ranks.

As the virus continues to spread, and until a vaccine is more widely available, it's expected that businesses worldwide will follow suit and use other options for clocking in and out, like facial recognition or contactless scanners. It is still not yet known whether or not businesses will revert to using these types of timeclocks as the threat of coronavirus subsides.

Another trend shaping time and attendance solutions is the gig economy. This fast-growing set of workers is governed by a different set of laws and regulations than permanent employees. Employers must pay attention to how these regulations evolve so they can accurately track hours worked and pay freelance workers.

Our Methodology

To determine the best time and attendance systems for different types of businesses, we examined over 100 cloud-hosted and on-premises solutions. Here's what we did:


Locating the Best Services

First, we spent time conducting initial research into each provider. We examined their websites and took a close look at the specific services each one offers. This included looking at the time collection options and whether they offer scheduling tools, PTO management, a mobile app, and geofencing or geolocation services. We also looked for software that would be affordable for small and midsize businesses.

Choosing the Best Services

From this extensive list, we excluded time and attendance apps that had limited features, were overly expensive or difficult to set up, or had poor customer service reviews. That narrowed our list down to just under 50 time and attendance systems to consider: Acculor, AcroTime from Acroprint, ADP, allGeo, All Hours, AMGTime, Attendance on Demand, AttendanceBot, Buddy Punch, Calamari, Clockify, ClockIn Portal, ClockShark, ClockVIEW from Acumen, Clockwise, Deputy, ExamTime (now GoConqr), Fingercheck, Harvest, Homebase, Hubstaff, Humanity, Kronos, OnTheClock, On-Time Web, OpenTimeClock, PARiM, PayClock Online, PrimePay, Sling, TimeAttend, TimeClick, TimeDoctor, Timesheet Mobile, Timesheets.com, TimeStation, Toggl, TrackSmart, TrackTime24, QuickBooks Time, uAttend, VeriClock, Virtual TimeClock, When I Work, Worksana and 7shifts.

Researching Each Service

We then conducted further investigation into each time and attendance system's services, watched tutorials and how-to videos, tested out the system when possible, read user comments, and reviewed Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings. We contacted each company's customer service department by phone, email or live chat and posed as business owners to gauge the support each provider offers. We also considered pricing, to ensure the systems we recommend are affordable for small businesses.

Next, we narrowed the list to 10 finalists to support multiple kinds of small businesses, startups and nonprofit organizations: Buddy Punch, Calamari, Clockify, Clockwise, Hubstaff, OnTheClock, TimeClick, QuickBooks Time and When I Work.

Analyzing Each Service

We analyzed each service based on cost, time-tracking capabilities, time-off management, overtime monitoring, scheduling tools, available reports, ease of use, customer service, integrations, mobile access, user reviews, and BBB complaints and ratings.

It is important to note that our process involved putting ourselves in the mindset of a business owner and gathering the data that would be readily available to them. We performed all of our research by visiting company websites, making calls to customer service departments and interviewing real users.

Considering Biometric Time and Attendance Systems

Many businesses are looking to upgrade to biometric time and attendance systems. These systems require employees to use their fingerprints or a facial scan to log in to the system. This prevents buddy punching, which is when employees clock in or out for their late or absent co-workers. Nearly all time and attendance systems, including most of our best picks, offer biometric options. As long as the system you choose works with a physical time clock, it is likely to offer a biometric option.

Laura Handrick
Laura Handrick
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Laura Handrick, MA, SPHR, is a professional with more than 30 years experience in HR, training, organizational development, and innovation management give her insight into business management, technology best practices, and labor law compliance. Having served at the executive level in Fortune 100 firms and international franchise organizations, Laura is passionate about helping businesses grow and scale. She has written over 100 long-form articles on topics ranging from software selection to performance management and shared her expertise in over 75 publications including the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company. Laura has a master's degree in instructional technology, is certified as an international franchise executive through the IFA, and as a senior professional in human resources through SHRM.
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