Time and Attendance: Its Days Are Numbered

The General Accounting Office released new policy guidelines on March 22, 1996 that permit agencies to get rid of sign-in sheets and other time and attendance paperwork.

"No excuses anymore. It's time to change," Vice President told participants at a Reinvention Conference. The requirement that federal workers sign in, he said, "is a "waste and indignity."

What Went Before

The Vice President's recommendations in September 1993 called for eliminating labor-intensive time sheets and time cards and using technology to enter payroll data on an exception basis (that is, only reporting the hours you don't work).

A 1995 NPR survey on time and attendance in 26 federal organizations showed that most federal agencies do not have policies that require their employees to sign in and out. Nevertheless, most federal workers still have to do it. "Ironically, agencies offering employees the greatest flexibility in arranging their work schedules are also making most of them sign in and out, especially for employees on alternate work schedules," said NPR staff member Laurie Lyons, who conducted the survey for the Chief Financial Officers Council.

The survey also showed considerable confusion in interpreting governmentwide policies, a profusion of approaches, and many requirements embedded in union contracts that will have to be renegotiated.

Policy Giver Is Also the Model

GAO, the agency that released the guidelines, does not require its employees to sign in and out on a daily basis. GAO trusts its employees to complete their scheduled number of hours before leaving at the end of the day. If an employee deviates one hour or more, he or she gets the supervisor's verbal approval.

The new guidelines will permit agencies to establish systems based on this model, including the use of electronic signatures, eliminating the need to keep paper records. The guidelines are on the NPR homepage ( For a copy of the guidelines, call (202) 512-6000. For information, call Barry Grinnell at GAO, (202) 512-9530.

This article appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of Reinvention Roundtable.

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