Do you know – a teacher in an Indian government school did not attend classes for 23 years out of her 24 years of employment? And she was paid wages for the entire duration!
Government institutions in India have been plagued by absenteeism for a long time. Various initiatives taken to curb this malpractice have fallen on their face. However, recent developments in biometric timekeeping have emerged as a ray of hope in tackling this issue.
The below image shows state-level teacher absence rates in India –
Read on to understand what exactly does a biometric timekeeping and attendance management solution accomplish. We will then look at the important role biometric attendance systems are playing in transforming the way India’s archaic institutions handle attendance and absenteeism…
Biometric timekeeping and attendance: an overview
A very crucial element of every organization, that defines the qualitative and quantitative productivity of its employees, is its attendance system. Keeping track of employees’ activities in an organization is important. Even delays of few minutes every day add up to hours of lost productive time over longer periods.
Biometric technology uses unique physical and physiological characteristics to identify a person. During employee enrollment his unique traits are digitized and stored in a template form in a secure database. Daily the biometric traits of the employee swiping-in and swiping-out is matched against the enrolled entries. This matching process determines whether the employee is authentic or not in order to allow or deny access to him. Each such transaction is recorded in a centralized database and the transaction log is preserved for end of the month payroll accounting purposes.
Biometrics is foolproof because it uses traits which are unique to every person. This makes it impossible to duplicate such individual traits and cheat the system. Such biometric traits include fingerprints, voice, color of the iris, gait and so on. An organization may choose one or more of these traits to implement biometric security.
Biometric devices have significantly reduced losses due to buddy punching and inefficient administrative time management. It has helped organizations in achieving better employee accountability which results in a more efficient and productive work force. Fingerprint time and attendance devices are increasingly being adopted, not only in private companies but also in many government organizations. These devices are being primarily used for fingerprint verification, recognition, identification, and scanning based applications.
Advantages of using Biometric access control and timekeeping
Biometric timekeeping ensures foolproof identity management and security
Keeping an attendance register at the entrance makes it susceptible to proxy entries. Using fingerprint access control systems such as a biometric door lock at the entry point will help in keeping an organization’s premises secure as people cannot have access to the organization without proper authorization. This is because every person has a unique set of fingerprints, so faking identity when using a fingerprint scanner is impossible.
Biometric timekeeping eliminates proxy attendance or buddy punching
Employers face huge payroll losses when the absenteeism of an employee is covered up through proxy attendance submissions via means such as buddy punching, proxy signatures etc.
Buddy punching refers to the malpractice where a worker inappropriately clocks-in for another worker. It is a problem that most organizations have to deal with traditional timekeeping methods. It is believed that around 75% of organizations lose significant amounts of money because of buddy punching.
Biometric access control devices, such as fingerprint scanners, help organizations eliminate buddy punching as biometrics uniquely identify an employee. So, there is no possibility for proxy sign-ins or buddy punching as an employee cannot fake the fingerprints of another.
Biometric access control provides efficient internal movement tracking
In offices, biometric access control provides a mechanism to monitor the time employees actually spend at their desk and the time they spend in unproductive activities. This feedback when provided to the employees, helps curb such unproductive activities and helps improve overall productivity.
In educational institutions installation of fingerprint-based access control can help the administration track the students’ movements who attend school at unusual hours or school hours. Singleton High and Cessnock High in Australia are two such schools which have implemented such a system. It helps the staff to monitor the students’ attendance and tardiness.
Accounting for working hours is much simpler with biometric access control
Companies can use attendance systems for project management too. Using a biometric door lock for attendance instead of pen and paper can help the company efficiently monitor and record the hours put in by each employee and the number of tasks completed. These systems can also help the project managers to identify the free-riders in the team and reward diligent workers.
Biometric timekeeping is environment friendly
In most of the organizations in India employees use paper based attendance systems for entering their log-in and log-out times in organizations. Use of paper and ink leads to a wastage of precious natural resources such as trees. Using fingerprint-based attendance can help in making a small but significant contribution to the environment.
How biometric access control is helping in curbing India’s chronic absenteeism
The problem of absenteeism among employees, specially government employees, across sectors hasn’t gone unnoticed by the government of India. Such absenteeism leads to low standards of government services such medical or healthcare services, education services and even infrastructure services. In addition, huge amount of government funds which are paid out as salaries essentially end up going down the drain due to no work being done by paid employees.
Indian government has started taking measures in multiple focus areas or sectors to end this menace of absenteeism. There have been active efforts to introduce biometric access control, timekeeping and attendance system to curb the chronic absenteeism.
Let us take a look at a few focus areas which have benefited from such government initiatives of implementing biometric attendance systems. Few actual examples of irregularities have been showcased for each focus area. This has been done to impress upon the extent to which government employees abstain from active duty –
Indian Government employees
Indian government employees have been notorious for their tendency to be absent from work. They either don’t come to office at all for extended periods of time or even if they come, the sign the attendance register and are not found on their designated seats.
There have been innumerable cases of employee absenteeism. One such case is of an executive engineer at the Central Public Works Department who didn’t show up for work since December 1990. The government had found him guilty back in 1992 itself, but bureaucratic hurdles meant it took 22 years, together with an intervention by a minister, to terminate the service of this person.
With the passage of time, this menace of absenteeism has grown further. It was with the setting up of Aadhaar project and the Unique Identification Authority of India that things started to turn for the better. Under the Aadhaar project, all of India’s population is being enrolled along with their biometric traits which includes scan of fingerprints of all the fingers as well as their iris scan. A national database is being prepared for this biometric information and is available for use in various government initiatives.
Indian government is now equipped with biometric information of all its citizens, including the government employees. This in turn is leading a change in the way attendance and timekeeping systems are being implemented by the government across its departments through the Biometric Attendance System (BAS). The BAS uses fingerprint scanners to capture attendance and timekeeping details. The details of attendance are publicly available and can be seen on the portal attendance.gov.in.
Indian healthcare institutions
Absenteeism is rampant in the state run hospitals, with some doctors not reporting for days on a stretch. With the help of proxy attendance these doctors avoid salary cuts and continue to be absent.
One of the findings of the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report (2008) is that the rate of absenteeism among primary healthcare workers in India, at 40%, is the highest in the world. Moreover, the report cautions that it is possible that these figures underestimate the severity of the problem because healthcare personnel can be present in hospitals without actually providing medical care.
Absenteeism among primary health care workers, 2002–03
The Central Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has decided to use a biometric fingerprint attendance system for all health care workers. The system is planned to be implemented in phases. The initial phase was started on April 2, 2012 as a pilot project and required all senior officials and doctors at government hospitals and medical colleges to comply.
In the same vein, West Bengal State Health Department has decided to usher biometric time clocks in a phased manner. To start with, the health department has decided that only the top-ranking staff would be covered under the new attendance system using biometric access control. Employee time clock software used for this purpose prepares a time log every time the user logs in and logs out. It is also used for payroll accounting, workforce management and computing salaries at the end of the month.
Attendance tracking of Indian teachers
The Indian education system is plagued by teacher absenteeism. A recent news report illustrates how a teacher from Madhya Pradesh had been absent for 23 of the last 24 years during her employment.
A study led by Karthik Muralidharan of University of California, San Diego, pegs the fiscal cost of such teacher absence to more than $1.5 billion per year. The study points out that if teachers don’t even show up to work then all the government education efforts finally end up useless.
According to a World Bank study based on unannounced visits to government schools, 25% of teachers were absent from school, and only about half were teaching. Absence rates varied from 15% to 42% across states. The study also found that salary is not a determinant of teacher absence. In fact, the teachers who are paid more are as frequently absent as contractual teachers who are paid considerably less.
Uttarakhand (State) High Court directive to introduce biometric attendance machines at secondary government schools across the state for registering teachers’ attendance was another case in point. According to officials at the education department, more than 3,000 schools in the state will be covered under this across the 13 districts.
With such wide interest in ensuring attendance among teachers at government schools, biometric attendance systems are sure to spread further among schools in the coming days. This would certainly have a positive effect on the standards of education in government schools nationwide.
Indian retail industry
Many India-based research reports reveal that there has been a phenomenal increase in absenteeism in some industrial sectors. The absenteeism becomes a problem for top management of these organizations. This problem takes a severe turn when employees abstain from work without giving sufficient notice and by justifying their stand by furnishing fake reasons.
A study was conducted in the Indian Public Sector, to understand the prevalent rates of absenteeism. For this study, the industries were grouped into collections based on the industry types and then results for such groups was published. Highest absenteeism recorded for an industrial group was 17.17% while the lowest rate of absenteeism was recorded at 0.48%.
Similar study was also done in the Indian Private Sector, the highest rate of absenteeism stood for an industry group at 38.9% and the figures for the lowest rate of absenteeism were 4.18%.
Biometric time and attendance system has special relevance for the Indian small scale retail industry where bottom-line is often the differentiating factor between the also-rans and the successful enterprises.
Let us look at ways in which biometric attendance systems can help Indian retail industry in improving employee productivity by reducing absenteeism –
- For small scale retail industries employee costs form a major part of the overall operations cost and therefore it becomes extremely important to optimize labor in order to strengthen the bottom-line. This can be done by adopting a robust biometric attendance system that tracks employee arrival and departures on a real time basis. Such a system will effectively prevent buddy punching and generating end of month reports for payroll accounting.
- Biometric access and attendance management systems help in workforce management by providing a complete range of data collection solutions for time & attendance, job costing and access control procedures.
- Biometric attendance management solutions can be used to streamline workforce processes by providing economical and practical solutions. These solutions effectively optimize the workforce’s productivity levels taking into account factors such as organization type, size of operation, number of employees and organizational rules and procedures.
- The Retail Industry can benefit from the inbuilt robustness of such a biometric attendance and timekeeping system to improve payroll processing procedures, tracking project costs on a real time basis and improving the security protocol of the organization.
- The retail industry is dynamic in nature requiring real time information in order to manage the resources better. The biometric time and attendance system helps in establishing smooth workflow processes and administration by improving workforce allocations and providing tools for forecasting work-floor requirements.
Indian NGO using fingerprint attendance to curb tuberculosis
In the year 2006, an Indian NGO launched Operation Asha in the rag-tag slum areas of Delhi, the capital of India. The non-descript slum ghetto of Tehkhand witnessed an establishment of a temporary clinic to cure primary ailments such as Tuberculosis for the betterment of medical conditions amongst the starving poor. Tuberculosis is still a rampant disease in India, which necessitated Operation Asha to undertake the medical treatments of over 60 patients per day.
The NGO used fingerprint recognition software to record attendance of patients suffering from Tuberculosis. The automated fingerprint identification systems were installed in the DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course) centers to conveniently mark attendance of the scores of patients that thronged the clinic premises daily.
The WTO (World Trade Organization) provided funds for the placement of these automated fingerprint identification systems in order to facilitate well-recorded attendance procedures for the patients. The attendances registered using the fingerprint-based systems were monitored by the NGO staff to be kept up-to-speed with arrivals, departure, current status and remarks, if necessary. This allowed doctors and staff to stay abreast with patient progress and undertake immediate action in case of anomalies.
Biometric timekeeping and attendance management systems have been proven to be highly effective in curbing absenteeism and proxy attendance. Buddy punching has been observed to be drastically reduced with after biometric systems being put in place.
The added advantage of such biometric systems is the use of automated biometric door locks to control access to the working area. The employee is given access only after his biometric trait, such as his fingerprints, are successfully matched with an enrolled employees’ biometric traits in the database. This results in an improvement in overall security and authorization systems in the organization using the biometric access control system.
From an industry perspective, biometric time and attendance system is a boon for the small scale organizations as it helps these industries in optimizing their resource utilization, improving the bottom-line and leads to better management of processes.