Access control does not equal time and attendance

October 2012 Access Control & Identity Management

There is a strong misconception, both by installers and end users, that any access control system that can connect to a PC is automatically a time and attendance (T&A) system. Just download the logs and you have a T&A report.

While the information retrieved from an access control system can be used to generate suitable T&A reports, a large amount of processing is required to do this – especially if one wants to comply with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act!

An access control system is, as the name implies, a system to control and manage access of people to specific areas at designated times. The logs that the system keeps are intended for security auditing purposes only. A T&A system requires a lot more than simple IN/OUT transactions.

A proper T&A system, will take logs, usually from a dedicated T&A reader, and process these logs according to a strict set of rules. These rules are based on how the company works – what time they start, what time they end, lunch breaks, permissible overtime etc. These rules are largely dictated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. However, the rules will vary from company to company depending on their own environment, requirements and history.

Typically, a T&A system will be able to generate a number of useful management reports to assist, not only for payroll, but also daily management. These reports should include a late comers report and absenteeism report. These would allow the management to get an immediate snap-shot of attendance for the day. Reports such as Clocking Exceptions, Clocking Adjustments, Leave and Early leaving are also very useful for the day to day management of a business and for cases of disciplinary action.

Obviously, the main function of a T&A system is to generate reports of hours worked. These reports need to be able to reflect Normal Time, Time-and-a-Half, Double Time and any other special time allocations that the company may require. These reports need to be able to be filtered by person, department, date, day, week or month. These reports must be calculated based on work rules, as well as requirements and leniency of the law.

South African law is different from the rest of the world in the rules that govern our working hours. Typically working more than a certain number of hours of normal time a month would automatically role up into overtime. Conversely, if there is a shortfall in normal time, but the person has worked overtime, that can be flowed down to fill the short fall in normal time. Unlike the rest of the world which only has Normal Time and Overtime, South Africa requires at least Normal Time, Time-and-a-Half and Double Time, each with its own conditions attached.

A suitable report for use as a timesheet should include Clock-In and Clock-Out times for each day, as well as daily totals. At the bottom of the timesheet the columns should be totalled up and then re-calculated in line with the required rules for the reported period. This should all be clearly and logically laid out on each timesheet. Get these calculations wrong and a visit to the CCMA may be on the cards or staff may go on strike.

As mentioned above, South Africa has special requirements for T&A systems. As such, it is highly recommended that when selecting software for a T&A system a local software house that specialises in time management software should be considered. This has a number of advantages:

* the software will comply with the requirements of South African law,

* the software house will be able to quickly adapt the software in the case of changing laws,

* the software house will be able to customise the software to meet individual requirements, and

* support is only a phone call away.

Also, South African T&A software will offer a payroll export feature that supports the commonly used, local payroll packages. Flexibility is important as well as every South African company works differently, but must still comply with unique legal requirements.

Most of the available software packages are integrated with a number of hardware platforms. One would be able to select the clocking reader of preference – RFID, fingerprint, facial etc from your preferred hardware supplier. Various brands are widely supported by the different software houses.

There are a huge number of T&A options out there and it is important that the system selected be compliant with the laws, be flexible enough to meet the requirements of the company, and be supported and backed up by all suppliers. Always remember that time and attendance is a service. Also, remember to get a few people to advise and quote, as not all solutions may suit your particular environment. Choose carefully and you will have a valuable business tool that will save the company significant amounts of time and money with a speedy ROI. Get it wrong and the costs could be devastating.


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