Biometric attendance: Can staff say ‘no’ to fingerprint scanner use?

Monic Del Rosario

4 April 2019    |   

Whenever business owners come to the point of growing their company, they naturally begin to think about managing people during shifts they can’t be physically present. One of the first puzzles managers solve is tracking employees’ time and attendance. From the get-go, this is the most basic yet the trickiest administrative task to keep up with. Probably because every business operates differently (various employee types, industry rules, pay rates, etc.) but mostly because a lot of the existing ‘solutions’ available do not always work as expected. One of the most common ways businesses track time and attendance is through a fingerprint scanner. It has some nifty benefits for employers: it’s a fool-proof way to prevent time theft, it ensures that you’re paying the right staff, and that you’re paying them exactly for the hours that they declared they worked. But just the same, there are also some disadvantages in using biometrics to log staff attendance at work, specifically regarding privacy. Last year, a scuffle over biometric attendance tracking was reported by the Fair Work Commission, where a sawmill worker in Queensland refused to use their employer’s fingerprint scanner to log their shifts at work. Superior Woods of Imbil, Sunshine Coast opted to require employees to clock in and out with a biometric device in order to avoid time theft. However, as personal data collected from these devices are being allegedly stored in servers off-site, Lee refused to comply to the company’s policy, stating that, “I am unwilling to consent to have my fingerprints scanned because I regard my biometric data as personal and private.” A little while afterwards, Lee was sacked from his job, despite never missing a shift in more than three years of working at Superior Woods. He then filed an unfair dismissal claim to the Fair Work Commission. “My biometric data is inherently mine and inseparable from me,” Lee said. “My employer can’t demand it or sack me for refusing to give it. It’s not about this particular employer. Ownership to me means that I can refuse consent without being sacked.” The Fair Work Commission’s ruling stated that it is a legal ground to dismiss employees who refuse to hand over biometric information. They also stated that this was a breach on privacy grounds. They found that the company had a site-attendance policy that was not automatically rendered as unlawful, regardless of whether or not Superior Woods was breaching privacy laws through their biometric fingerprint scanners. Read more: Facial Recognition vs. Fingerprint Scanners for Time and Attendance Fingerprints and other biometric signatures might seem like an easy way to solve this time theft, but in reality, there have been claims that hackers are still able to access such type of data or their representation in a system where they’re stored. With the case of Jeremy Lee, important legal rights are already a hot topic of debate that has since been unresolved. Even after the rejection of Lee’s unfair dismissal claim, the commision has mentioned that upon review, the legality of firing a worker for not providing biometric data hasn’t really been thoroughly examined within the Australian legal landscape just yet. “The policy itself is not unlawful, simply the manner in which the employer went about trying to obtain consent may have constituted a breach of the Privacy Act,” they said. In this day and age where businesses are heading towards becoming fully digital in their operations, many are still struggling to even get administrative tasks out of the way, with time and attendance being one of them. Tablets and smartphones are practically the norm, which makes it easier for any employee to use. Compared to fingerprint scanners, smart devices are now being utilised for admin work in operations that have multiple shifts, different types of staff, and 24/7 operations. Some software like Tanda’s Time Clock App make use of these devices to avoid time theft in the workplace, verifying the employee’s identity with a unique passcode and a selfie-verified clock-in/out system. Read more: How to Eliminate Time Theft Business environments are moving towards automation and digitalisation at a startling rate. Software and apps are indispensable to everyday life, the workplace included. To remain competitive, businesses need to invest in software that will help them remain compliant without sacrificing the trust they build with their staff, especially ones that bring about legal discussions. Doing so will allow managers to not be bogged down by unnecessary tasks such as having to negotiate with workers for attendance policies, and instead focus on successfully navigating daily operations of their business.

Whenever business owners come to the point of growing their company, they naturally begin to think about managing people during shifts they can’t be physically present. One of the first puzzles managers solve is tracking employees’ time and attendance. From the get-go, this is the most basic yet the trickiest administrative task to keep up with. Probably because every business operates differently (various employee types, industry rules, pay rates, etc.) but mostly because a lot of the existing ‘solutions’ available do not always work as expected.

One of the most common ways businesses track time and attendance is through a fingerprint scanner. It has some nifty benefits for employers: it’s a fool-proof way to prevent time theft, it ensures that you’re paying the right staff, and that you’re paying them exactly for the hours that they declared they worked.

But just the same, there are also some disadvantages in using biometrics to log staff attendance at work, specifically regarding privacy.

Last year, a scuffle over biometric attendance tracking was reported by the Fair Work Commission, where a sawmill worker in Queensland refused to use their employer’s fingerprint scanner to log their shifts at work. Superior Woods of Imbil, Sunshine Coast opted to require employees to clock in and out with a biometric device in order to avoid time theft. However, as personal data collected from these devices are being allegedly stored in servers off-site, Lee refused to comply to the company’s policy, stating that, “I am unwilling to consent to have my fingerprints scanned because I regard my biometric data as personal and private.”

A little while afterwards, Lee was sacked from his job, despite never missing a shift in more than three years of working at Superior Woods. He then filed an unfair dismissal claim to the Fair Work Commission. “My biometric data is inherently mine and inseparable from me,” Lee said. “My employer can’t demand it or sack me for refusing to give it. It’s not about this particular employer. Ownership to me means that I can refuse consent without being sacked.”

The Fair Work Commission’s ruling stated that it is a legal ground to dismiss employees who refuse to hand over biometric information. They also stated that this was a breach on privacy grounds. They found that the company had a site-attendance policy that was not automatically rendered as unlawful, regardless of whether or not Superior Woods was breaching privacy laws through their biometric fingerprint scanners.

Read more: Facial Recognition vs. Fingerprint Scanners for Time and Attendance

Fingerprints and other biometric signatures might seem like an easy way to solve this time theft, but in reality, there have been claims that hackers are still able to access such type of data or their representation in a system where they’re stored.

With the case of Jeremy Lee, important legal rights are already a hot topic of debate that has since been unresolved. Even after the rejection of Lee’s unfair dismissal claim, the commision has mentioned that upon review, the legality of firing a worker for not providing biometric data hasn’t really been thoroughly examined within the Australian legal landscape just yet. “The policy itself is not unlawful, simply the manner in which the employer went about trying to obtain consent may have constituted a breach of the Privacy Act,” they said.

In this day and age where businesses are heading towards becoming fully digital in their operations, many are still struggling to even get administrative tasks out of the way, with time and attendance being one of them. Tablets and smartphones are practically the norm, which makes it easier for any employee to use. Compared to fingerprint scanners, smart devices are now being utilised for admin work in operations that have multiple shifts, different types of staff, and 24/7 operations. Some software like Tanda’s Time Clock App make use of these devices to avoid time theft in the workplace, verifying the employee’s identity with a unique passcode and a selfie-verified clock-in/out system.

Read more: How to Eliminate Time Theft

Business environments are moving towards automation and digitalisation at a startling rate. Software and apps are indispensable to everyday life, the workplace included. To remain competitive, businesses need to invest in software that will help them remain compliant without sacrificing the trust they build with their staff, especially ones that bring about legal discussions. Doing so will allow managers to not be bogged down by unnecessary tasks such as having to negotiate with workers for attendance policies, and instead focus on successfully navigating daily operations of their business.

Related Posts

Awards & Rostering    |   

The Different Kinds of Award Interpreters

We often chat to people who have looked at a few different award interpretation tools on the market. Most are not really sure which award interpretation tool is right for their business.  In this post, we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of award interpreters out there to help you understand what is important when looking for a tool for you or your clients. Firstly, an Award Interpreter (read about Tanda’s Award Interpreter) is software that figures out how much staff should be getting paid based on their hours and times worked.  What award interpreter is right for you? There are four different kinds and the right one depends on how your staff get paid. Salary Costing Tools: Used to calculate payroll when all your staff are paid a fixed salary. Hourly Wage Calculators: Calculates when staff get paid a single hourly rate for all hours worked. Single Rate Calculators: Pays staff only single types of pay like weekday, Saturday and Sunday rates. However, it cannot handle any of the more common rate scenarios set out in Awards. Award Rule Engines: Does all of the above. In addition, they also calculate overtime, penalty rates, allowances, accruals and leave. “All my staff get paid a salary.” If you only employ salaried staff, a Salary Costing Tool is perfect for you. This is common in white collar workforces like accounting firms. In this case, you enter each employee’s yearly salary, set rules about how leave accrues and the tool does the rest. This is simple because staff are paid the same thing most pay runs. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool. If this is you, you’re in luck – you will not need an additional system for award interpretation! “My staff get paid the same hourly rate for all hours worked.” This might come up if you run a very small business with only a few staff. This is where nobody works on weekends, receives overtime or penalty rates. Generally, this means the business is only open for a few hours on days that it does open. If that’s you, you’re after an Hourly Wage Calculator. Warning: Be careful with this one. It’s easy to miss subtle wordings in Awards that require you to pay different rates at different times. Keep in mind that if any of your staff ever get more than one pay rate in a week, an hourly wage calculator won’t work as well anymore (even if it doesn’t regularly happen). Using an Hourly Wage Calculator, you enter the hourly rate for each employee. Each week you only enter the number of hours worked (you don’t worry about times). The tool multiplies the hourly rate by the number of hours to calculate total pay. Most payroll systems (including MYOB and Xero) already include such a tool, so if this is you, you’re also in luck – you won’t need an additional system for award interpretation! “I employ only one type of employee. They receive weekday and weekend rates only.” If you have staff that get paid hourly and receive different rates on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you might be able to use a Single Rate Calculator. However, be careful because this only works if you have a single employment type. An Employment Type refers to the way someone is employed. This includes full-time, part-time, casual or shiftworkers. If everyone you employ is the same employment type (e.g. everyone is Full Time) then this might work for you. When using a Single Rate Award Calculator, you enter the hourly rate that each employee gets during the week. You enter the multiplier for Saturday and Sunday shifts. Also, Public Holidays, if the calculator supports it. If an employee gets a base rate of $20 and your Saturday multiplier is 1.5 (Time and a Half), they receive $30 on Saturday’s. When you enter a timesheet the system pays staff at the appropriate rate based on the days worked only. Why do these only work for one employment type? If you you have a Full Time employee (base $20/hour), and a Casual employee (base $20/hour + 25% casual loading = $25/hour). This table shows how a Single Rate Award Calculator would calculate the cost of two shifts. Weekday Rate – Full Time Saturday Rate – Full Time Weekday Rate – Casual Saturday Rate – Casual 20 30 25 37.5 In most awards, you’re meant to apply the 1.5 multiplier and then the 25% casual loading! Here is how Fair Work’s Pay Rate Calculator says you should have paid: Base Rate – Full Time (1x) Saturday Rate – Full Time (1.5x) Base Rate – Casual (1.25x) Saturday Rate – Casual (1.75x) 20 30 25 35 Single Rate Award Calculator’s are great if you have staff on a single employment type as all their multipliers will be the same. However as soon as you have different kinds of staff, it stops working correctly. (It also doesn’t work if you have to pay overtime, penalty rates, deal with leave or accruals. It’s really just for simple weekend rates) Some payroll systems include Single Rate Calculators, but most likely you’ll need an external system. Most award interpretation tools on the market can be used for Single Rate Calculation. If that’s what you need, just pick whichever looks good and is well supported. However, if you have multiple employment types, or other more complex pay requirements (eg. Overtime, Allowances, Penalty Rates, RDOs, TOIL, or Leave costing), read on… “I employ more than one type of employee,” or “I have to pay overtime, penalty rates or allowances,” or “I have to manage RDO or TOIL accruals and leave” If any of these sound familiar, you’re after an Award Rule Engine. It’s called a rule engine because it’s based on different payroll rules that you configure, allowing you to pay staff at different rates across the week. However, it also covers different rates within the same day and for different employment types. Some Award Rule Engines also come with pre-built sets of rules called Templates. A template contains all of the rules necessary to pay under a particular Fair Work Award. A good template will include all of the base rates for different levels of staff (each employee will have a minimum wage and the template should include this). A really good template will automatically keep your payroll software up to date based on Fair Work Award updates. Here’s some other things to keep an eye out for when comparing Award Rule Engines. You should ask these questions before implementing a system so you don’t get burned 3 months down the track. Can I set different Saturday/Sunday multipliers for Full Time and Casual staff? When staff pay rates go up (each year when the Fair Work updates minimum rates), are these updated automatically? Are staff pay rates automatically updated in the linked payroll system? Does the engine understand the concept of Ordinary Hours? (Ordinary hours of work accrue superannuation and count towards overtime, while non-ordinary hours don’t. Systems that treat all time as ordinary can end up costing you a lot more in labour costs – and staff won’t complain if you get that wrong!) Can I configure different pay rates for junior staff? Does the system automatically update them on birthdays? How does the engine handle RDOs or TOIL accrual? Are you able to configure accrual for arbitrary leave types? Can the engine pay the correct allowances for split shifts? Can you configure how long a shift must be “split” before this kicks in? Can you configure automatic allowances (like Laundry Allowances) and manual ones (like Overtime Meal Allowances)? Just for specific employees? Based on the times or days that they work? Can I configure specific Public Holiday dates for each employee (important if you have  multiple sites with different Show Holidays or Regional Public Holidays). How is overtime calculated if an employee takes leave midway through the pay period? What if they take it on the last day? Can I calculate overtime based on an employee working outside their rostered hours? If a Template has been built based on an Award, can I change the ordinary span of hours based on agreement with the majority of my staff? Can I configure special provisions for shift workers? By the way… with Tanda’s Award Rule Engine, the answer to all those questions is yes! Hopefully, this post has helped clear some confusion around the types of tools that exist in the market and what you can use depending on how your workforce is set up. If you’ve got any further questions, feel free to email us on info@tanda.co

Product Updates    |   

Introducing the New Tanda Time Clock App!

We are very excited to announce that a brand new Time clock app is here, packed with new features, more stability and a much more user-friendly design. The Time clock is a core part of Tanda and it is key to making sure you can accurately track your staff attendance. Tanda’s Time Clock app live streams employee clock ins, making it easy to track employee time and attendance. All data is stored in the system, and transferred automatically to timesheets, so you’ve always got a record of when staff are working. Since we first released the Time clock app, we have received feedback for improvements and new feature ideas! We have taken all of this feedback on-board and built a brand new app that we know you will love. What’s new? A refreshed modern design A simple and intuitive interface More guidance for users Now works on iPads Current and upcoming shift information displayed upon clock-in / out Staff can submit leave and unavailability right through the app (optional feature) Download the Time Clock app   Visit the Time Clock page for more information.

Awards & Rostering    |   

Penalty Rates Decision: Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates to be cut

Fair Work Penalty Rates Decision Source: The Fair Work Commission The Fair Work Commission has today announced that Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are to be cut across Hospitality, Retail, and Fast Food Awards, while Saturday penalty rates are to remain the same. Changes to Sunday Penalty Rates Sunday penalty rates for full time and part time hospitality workers will be reduced from 175% to 150%, rates for casuals will remain the same at 175%. Level 1 Employees under the Fast Food Award will see a reduction in Sunday penalty rates from 150% to 125% for full-time and part-time employees. Casuals will have a reduction from 175% to 150%. No changes will be made to Sunday penalty rates for Level 2 and Level 3 Employees under the Award. Full time and part-time retail workers will have Sunday penalty rates reduced from 200% to 150%. Casual Sunday rates for retail will also be reduced from 200% to 175%. Changes to Public Holiday Penalty Rates Public holiday rates for full-time workers in hospitality will be reduced from 250% to 225%, with no change for casual Public Holiday penalty rates. Changes to Public Holiday rates will come into effect July 1, 2017. However, The Commission has stated that the immediate implementation of updated Sunday penalty rates would create undue financial distress for Sunday workers. As such transitional arrangements for Sunday penalty rate changes will be made in the coming months. The decision was handed down after more than eight months of deliberation, and comes after The Productivity Commission recommended bringing Sunday penalty rates into line with Saturday rates in 2015. This is the biggest Industrial Relations decision The Fair Work Commission has made in recent years. It is hoped that reducing penalty rates will bring  about more ‘positive employment effects’ for businesses, and will “lead to increased trading hours, an increase in the level and range of services offered on Sundays and Public Holidays and an increase in overall hours worked.” With the outcome of the decision expected to come into play later this year, it is crucial that business owners have the correct tools and processes in place to update changes to wage rates correctly, and better manage their labour costs to capitalise on the penalty rate reductions.

More Resources

About the author

Monic Del Rosario

Monic is Tanda's content curator. She uses her background in Development Studies to create materials that are both business-oriented and human-centric.

Share this article

Related Articles

Awards & Rostering

The Different Kinds of Award Interpreters

We often chat to people who have looked at a few different award interpretation tools on the market. Most are not really sure which award interpretation tool is right for their business.  In this post, we’re going to take a look at the different kinds of award interpreters out there to help you understand what […]

Product Updates

Introducing the New Tanda Time Clock App!

We are very excited to announce that a brand new Time clock app is here, packed with new features, more stability and a much more user-friendly design. The Time clock is a core part of Tanda and it is key to making sure you can accurately track your staff attendance. Tanda’s Time Clock app live […]

Awards & Rostering

Penalty Rates Decision: Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates to be cut

Fair Work Penalty Rates Decision Source: The Fair Work Commission The Fair Work Commission has today announced that Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates are to be cut across Hospitality, Retail, and Fast Food Awards, while Saturday penalty rates are to remain the same. Changes to Sunday Penalty Rates Sunday penalty rates for full time […]

More Resources

Subscribe to the Tanda Blog!

Stay updated with the latest insights on frontline work, industry news, business templates, and other free resources.

*Please fill this field
*Please fill this field