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. Read more: Why fingerprint scanners don’t work for time and attendance 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.

Read more: Why fingerprint scanners don’t work for time and attendance

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.

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Events & Media AU Industry Insights    |   

Greens MP introduces franchise wages bill

A new bill called the Fair Work Amendment (Recovery of Unpaid Amounts for Franchisee Employees) Bill 2015 was introduced to Parliament last week. The bill, sponsored by Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt, is a direct response to the recent 7-Eleven saga, in which the Fair Work Ombudsman has already found over $600,000 in underpaid wages and entitlements. The bill aims to prevent this by making the franchisor responsible for correcting underpayments if the franchisee is not able to pay staff correctly and on time. You can read the text of the bill here, as well as its explanatory memoranda. Nobody would argue that it’s fair how 7-Eleven staff were underpaid, but this bill skirts a fine line that all franchisors should be aware of. The bill is written in the typical legalese of the Fair Work Awards and the National Employment Standards, but the gist of it is: If a franchisee employer does not pay an employee by pay day, then the employee, or someone acting on their behalf, can give the franchisor a written demand for payment. The employee doesn’t need to do this immediately. They have 6 years from the pay day in which they can make this request. The franchisor has 14 days to pay the employee what they’ve requested. If the franchisor doesn’t pay the employee within the given 14 days, the employee (or a lawyer) can take the franchisor to court. So if the franchisor disagrees with the employee’s written request… it must go to court! The court must add interest to the amount already owed to the employee. This interest is calculated from the pay day (so at this point it’ll already be 14 days worth). In short, if this bill became law, every franchisor in Australia would have unknown liabilities on their books for the wages of everyone who’s ever worked at one of their franchises any time in the past 6 years. And they could get these written notices if a franchisee gets their payroll out an hour late. This bill could certainly set a precedent for even more responsibilities for head office over what franchisees are doing. We think this could significantly change the dynamics of franchise agreements and cause a lot of headaches. It’s important for franchises to be ready for this sort of thing. Whether mandated by law or common sense, as a franchisor you need to be sure that your franchisees aren’t doing dodgy things with payroll that are going to see your brand on the front page of the Australian.   About the author Jake Phillpot is a Director of Tanda, a specialist time and attendance company focusing on the interpretation of Australian Modern Awards and Enterprise Agreements. Tanda maintains templates of popular Modern Awards including Fast Food, Hospitality, Retail, and Restaurant. These templates include the Fair Work mandated minimum wages of all levels of staff, as well as rules for penalty rates, allowances, and overtime based on the times that staff worked. For more information, read a Franchise Case Study with Red Rooster or call Jake on 1300 859 117. You can also request an enterprise POA.

Awards & Rostering    |   

Australian Minimum Wage Update for 2016

With the End of Financial Year fast approaching, it’s time for you to start thinking about minimum wage and what is required of you as a business owner for the New Financial Year. Fair Work Australia has recently released its decision on national employment standards, which include wage increases for Modern Award rates. As of July 1 2016, the national minimum wage will increase by 2.4% or $15.80 per week. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of these changes and have updated your pay rates for your employees correctly. How does the minimum wage update affect you? July 1, 2016 is the official day set by Fair Work for the proposed changes to take action, so it’s important that you are aware of any changes and understand what is expected of you in regards to workplace compliance, before July 1. Employers who have employees covered by a Modern Award… have the responsibility to check the updates to the Modern Award rate or the national minimum wage, and ensure that their records are updated as of July 1, and that the first pay run after July 1 is paid at the new pay rates. For example: Taylor, aged 24 is employed as a Casual Level 3, on the General Retail Award 2010. Typically, Taylor will work: Monday – 11:00am to 5:30pm (6 hours) Thursday – 5:00pm to 9:00pm (4 hours) Saturday – 10:30am to 5:00pm (6 hours) Sunday – 11:00am to 3:30 pm (4 hours 30 minutes) Prior to 1 July 2016, Taylor would have received $584.30 for working the 20.5 hours above. But in the New Financial Year, Taylor would now receive $598.51 for the same shifts which is an overall increase of $14.21 per week*. So that could be an extra $730 in Taylor’s bank account for the year. *The above example was automatically calculated using Tanda’s Award Interpretation software. Employers who have a custom agreement… whether this is an ‘above award rate’ or an Enterprise Agreement have the responsibility to carry out a ‘better off overall test’ (BOOT). This confirms that the current payment arrangement is better for the employee than the industry Modern Award. If the above award rate is higher than the new rate, then as an employer your responsibility is to ensure that you continue paying above the award rate. Why is it such an issue and what does this mean for businesses? National employment standards are important markers for employers as they provide the outline for what is expected by Fair Work, when managing and paying staff. Challenges have arisen over the years for employers who have struggled to keep up with the intricate details and updates to the numerous awards. Many employers experience paperwork headaches when trying to update their pay rates based on changes to Awards, and it is often further complicated by the additional factors of penalty rates and overtime. How can Tanda help? Managing minimum wage updates every year is a tedious and unnecessary task. But there are tools that automate this process… Tanda is workforce management software specialising in automating award interpretation in addition to rostering and timesheets. The market-leading award interpreter automatically calculates the gross wage for your staff based on your industry award and additional factors such as penalty rates and public holidays. Tanda then takes this information and transfers it into your payroll software, in a format that is ready to be processed, so you can pay your staff quickly and effectively. The best part about all of it- is that Tanda automatically updates Modern Award pay rates each year for you, in accordance with Fair Work’s minimum wage update. Tanda stores all your records securely in the cloud to meet your compliance expectations, but it also takes the stress out of your EOFY paperwork. Give up the calculator for good this EOFY! Get rid of the pay rates headache, and get ready for a stress-free EOFY with Tanda. Simply sign up for a free trial with Tanda to see what the award rates increases means for your business: www.tanda.co/award-interpretation For more information regarding Fair Work’s updates, visit the Fair Work Commission website.

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.

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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.

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Events & Media AU Industry Insights

Greens MP introduces franchise wages bill

A new bill called the Fair Work Amendment (Recovery of Unpaid Amounts for Franchisee Employees) Bill 2015 was introduced to Parliament last week. The bill, sponsored by Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt, is a direct response to the recent 7-Eleven saga, in which the Fair Work Ombudsman has already found over $600,000 in underpaid wages […]

Awards & Rostering

Australian Minimum Wage Update for 2016

With the End of Financial Year fast approaching, it’s time for you to start thinking about minimum wage and what is required of you as a business owner for the New Financial Year. Fair Work Australia has recently released its decision on national employment standards, which include wage increases for Modern Award rates. As of July […]

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 […]

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