35+ Most Common Questions About Timesheets, Answered

There are a lot misconceptions and questions regarding timesheets. To dispel all the confusion, here are the answers to the most common questions.

Time management technique time management techniques illustration

Timesheets Q&A

THE BASICS

THE FINANCIAL ASPECT

THE LEGAL MATTERS

THE HOLIDAYS

TIMESHEET WORKFLOWS

AUTOMATING TIMESHEETS

THE BASICS

01. What is a timesheet?

A timesheet is the record of the amount of time an employee has spent working during a fixed time period - such as a day, week, or month. It's also a record of the amount of time an employee has spent working on a particular project or for a particular client.

Timesheets are typically filled out by employees, although this depends on the company's timesheet policy - in some cases, the manager, supervisor, or employer fills out an employee's timesheet.

Eletronic timesheet example

02. Who invented timesheets?

Christiaan Huygens is credited for inventing the first clock (the pendulum clock) in 1656 - but, the first name in history to be linked with the modern concept of a timesheet is Williard Bundy. He was the one who invented and later patented the first automatic mechanical time clock in the 1880s.

First timesheet
Image Credit: Petecollier [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Today, many companies use a time card-based system similar to the one introduced by Bundy - in fact, the entire time clock system we use today is often referred to as a Bundy clock.

What's interesting is that back in Bundy's time, many professionals who today typically work on an hourly rate (such as engineers, lawyers, and architects) used to ignore the clock concept of charging by the hour and preferred to charge by the job.

03. How to fill timesheets? How timesheets work?

Timesheet forms typically require the employees to enter the time they spend at work, with an emphasis on the time they spend doing work for particular clients and on particular projects.

Although that's not the exact purpose of a timesheet, the supervisor can also infer the times the employees arrived at work and left, as well as the times they took breaks.

This data is entered per day, and the daily totals are later added up to get the weekly and monthly totals for projects.

That's the gist, but the exact data required by the timesheet is determined by the type of timesheet you need to fill out.

04. What are the types of timesheets?

We usually distinguish timesheets based on the time period they cover and the information they require.

Timesheet templates

Download timesheet templates

05. Why do I have to complete a timesheet?

There are several reasons why timesheets are so important for a business:

And, perhaps most importantly, they help you get paid for your work properly - timesheets that are completed with precision and on time are often required for payroll processing.

06. Is timesheet a timecard?

Timesheets and timecards are often used as synonyms - after all, they both represent a record of the hours spent working.

However, a timesheet records more data than a traditional time card:

  1. A timecard is a timestamped card meant only to record the employee's start and end times at work - it's basically a simple clock-in/clock-out system. Employees used to use punch cards for the purpose of click in and out, but nowadays they use automatic time card calculators, or time tracking software for this purpose.
  2. A timesheet allows the recording of various tasks and projects worked on during a fixed time period, for the purpose of project accounting, client billing, and payroll processing. Although that's not its main function, a timesheet also records the times when the employees arrive at work and leave for the day.
Timestamped card

07. What is a timesheet application?

A timesheet application is an electronic solution to adding time in a timesheet - you get a ready-made timesheet template where you can add time for projects and tasks, in a couple of clicks.

Later on, you can download and print your completed timesheets, copy timesheet templates for use in future weeks, delete and edit the projects and tasks you worked on, as well as navigate through different past weeks of completed timesheets.

08. What is timesheet compliance?

Timesheet compliance is linked with a number of important federal acts and agencies - namely, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA).

All employees that fall under FLSA rules and regulations (also known as non-exempt employees) need to be compliant to FLSA. The rules and regulations that need to be covered for the company to stay compliant to FLSA include:

Companies that form contracts with the US government need to stay compliant to DCAA - their responsibilities include:

For more information on how to keep your timesheets compliant, check out our guides to FLSA and DCAA compliance.

09. Do startups really need timesheet software to track employees and project performance?

By proxy, startups don't really need to follow any rigid rules - but, using a timesheet software can have a number of irrefutable benefits for your up and coming business.

If your startup team fills out their timesheets on a regular basis, you'll be able to:

Moreover, the element of transparency brought by completing timesheets will help you handle buyouts and mergers, as well as compile precise records that serve as proof of your startup's work and progress - such records may be crucial for winning over potential investors.

10. What is the relationship between timesheet software and productivity?

Tracking time with timesheet software has proven to boost productivity and to have a number of productivity-related benefits for a business.

Some of these benefits include:

You could, in theory, achieve great work results without timesheet software - by having your employees fill out paper timesheets with a pen, or by using a different non-electronic timesheet method.

However, timesheet software is the timesheet element that facilitates better productivity and time management by automating these processes - making everything easier and more efficient.

THE FINANCIAL ASPECT

11. Why is a timesheet important in payroll?

One of the main uses of completed timesheets is calculating payroll - payroll is calculated based on the hours of work added to the timesheet. In gist, here's how it goes:

  1. Employees complete their timesheets
  2. The times the employees worked during a week or month are added up
  3. The total sum per employee is converted to decimal format and multiplied by their respective hourly rates (e.g. 8.5 x $60 = $510)

Once again, you can perform these actions through manual calculation (if your business uses physical timesheets to track employee work time), but automating the calculation with time tracking software is the much quicker and more precise solution.

12. What is timesheet attestation?

Attestation by definition means “evidence or proof of something” - and timesheet attestation helps you prove that your company is compliant to the standard rules and regulations regarding wages and hours worked. Timesheet attestation also helps reduce the risk of liability.

You can best ensure timesheet attestation by adding an attestation clause to your timesheet policy - when doing so, you'll need to:

13. How to calculate earnings based on a timesheet?

Calculating earnings based on a timesheet is easy, especially if you're using automated timesheet software - for example, you want to calculate the earnings you've made on a particular project:

  1. Define your hourly rate for that project
  2. Enter all the time you've spent on that project

Once you enter your data, you'll only have to watch as the time you've spent working on that project automatically multiplies with your hourly rate - the total numbers are your earnings for that project.

calculating earnings based on a timesheet

14. How to invoice a timesheet?

Pick an easy-to-use invoicing software from a list of proven invoicing tools.

Add the number that represents the total sum of your project earnings from your timesheet software to the invoice. Add the additional information required by the invoice form, such as invoice number, invoice items, payment date, etc.

Once you've filled out your invoice form, send it to the client.

invoicing timesheets

THE LEGAL MATTERS

According to timesheet policy, timesheets are a legal document - considering that they are the source of payroll transactions, as well as an instrumental part in client invoicing.

They serve as a legal basis to ensure that the employees receive the compensation, benefits, and time off they're entitled to.

16. When do I have to complete a timesheet? And when do I need to submit it?

This depends on your company - as evident by the various timesheet templates available, companies usually ask for the timesheets to be submitted on a daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis.

The exact time and manner of submitting your timesheets will depend on your company's timesheet policy.

In any case, it's best that you complete your timesheets on a daily basis, while the exact tasks and projects you worked on and the time you spent on them are fresh in your mind. You'll then need to submit your completed timesheets for approval to your assigned timesheet approver, before the policy prescribed deadline.

17. How do you prevent timesheet fraud in your company?

Timesheet frauds in companies include inflating work hours, falsifying data entries, and errors caused by a delay in completing timesheets - strictly speaking, the errors may not be frauds but can still be viewed as such by legal bodies. They all lead to money loss and reduced trust in the employer/manager/employee department.

You may not be able to completely stop timesheet fraud in your company, but you can minimize it in the future, by:

Most importantly, you'll need to establish disciplinary measures for offenders - once people know the consequences of their actions they'll be more likely to act appropriately, in order to avoid said consequences.

18. Can an employer withhold pay for employees for a late timesheet? Will I get paid if I don't complete my timesheet?

In short - yes and no.

Sometimes, an employee may hold up or delay pay in order to motivate employees to complete their timesheets on time in the future. Other times, the employer may have problems paying the employee for that day - no timesheet also means there is no proof that day was worked on.

However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that an employer is required to pay the employees for all the regular hours scheduled for that day - and an employee who failed to turn in his/her timesheet is no exception.

But, FLSA laws and regulations also require that all FLSA-covered employees turn in their timesheets in order for the company to stay compliant. So, it's best to communicate the importance of turning in employee timesheets. Apart from staying compliant, such timesheets also help hourly employees be paid the exact hours they worked, plus the overtime they're due.

19. How to fill up the break section of my work timesheet?

According to Federal law, the employer is not required to give employees breaks outside the lunch break - but, state laws might require short breaks, anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. To make sure employees don't take more than their allowed breaks, the employer may ask for all short breaks to be added to the timesheet.

If we assess the question from a practical point of view, you can use these short breaks to go to the bathroom, make yourself a cup of coffee, or run a quick personal errand.

To track time on a short break in Clockify, simply create a project called “Break Time” in the Projects section of the app - each time you go on a break, add a description to your break, and then add it to the “Break Time” project. This way, you'll remain transparent when it comes to your time spent on breaks, but you'll also get a personal insight into whether you're spending too much time on these breaks.

The FLSA doesn't require compensation for breaks that are shorter than 20, and the official lunch break is typically unpaid time - however, it still needs to be added to the timesheet, for compliance reasons.

breaks in timesheets

20. Can an employer change a timesheet?

In gist - yes.

The FLSA requires companies to keep timesheets records for their non-exempt employees - but it doesn't require the employees to build their records, and holds the employer responsible for all problems with employee timesheets.

Because of this, employers hold the discretion to change the time records of their employees - they must, however, ensure that the time records are true to the time the employees worked.

In practice, it's mostly the employees who enter their timesheets according to the hours they worked that day - but, if it turns out that the employee forgot to enter a start or end time for a day, the employer may do it for him/her.

However, such changes should be made carefully, and there is one change an employer cannot make to an employee's timesheet - reducing the number of hours non-exempt hourly employees worked in order to avoid paying them the overtime they're due.

21. Is my timesheet at work considered confidential?

It depends on the information covered in the timesheet.

If the timesheet contains only information about the hours the employees worked, then it usually falls under the Public Records Law - such timesheets are used for payroll and considered to be financial records rather than personal, meaning that they are not to be treated as confidential.

However, if the timesheet contains information labeled as personal (such as performance evaluation, leave time, comp time, social security numbers, etc.), the timesheets are considered confidential, meaning that it's forbidden for the local government to provide access to the timesheets.

22. The employer has been using faulty timesheets - how can I go about recovering missing wages?

Employees covered by the FLSA may suffer one or more of the following problems due to faulty timesheets:

Although the listed offenses need legal actions according to the FLSA, there are also certain exceptions to these rules that make the discrepancies in your timesheets legal - in case of any confusion or dispute, consult your lawyer before making direct accusations.

23. Employee significantly lying on their timesheet - how to protect me upon their termination?

If you're worried your employees are inflating their actual hours worked, there's a clear path you can follow:

If you've included this clause about falsifying timesheets into your timesheet policy, you'll be sure your employees know what kind of actions regarding their timesheets will lead them to termination - and it's up to them if it comes to that.

24. How to measure the creative workers' output who are not filling in the timesheet?

If your employees are not filling out their timesheets to measure their creative output, you can still guide them to the results you want by:

However, completing tasks from the Road map in a random order, and having a lax policy about checking up on progress can hurt the project and your employees' productivity in the long run - so, filling out timesheets is less of a hassle when tracking and maintaining project progress, even for creative workers' output.

25. Is the daily accuracy of a timesheet important if the end check is the same?

In short and precise words - yes it is.

Keeping accurate timesheets is vital for billing clients accurately and establishing a great professional relationship with them - if the client demands proof of the work done when a problem occurs, you'll be able to send them the timesheets in a couple of clicks.

However, if a problem arises and your timesheets are not precise and accurate enough for you to prove your point, a number of problems may befall your business - even if you're right.

For example, you may lose the contract, the client may ask for a money refund, and you may even be fined. In the worst-case scenario, the manager and/or employees can go to jail under the charge of fraud.

26. I lied on my timesheet and got caught - how can I fix it?

Lying about your timesheet can get you into serious trouble.

For example, you're obliged by company policy to arrive at work at 7:00 am - but, you arrive at 7:20 am and still write that you arrived at 7:00 am. At that moment, there are witnesses who ask whether you wrote that you arrived to work at 7:20 - you lie and say yes, but know there's an easy way anyone can check this.

Your best solution is to avoid making such errors in judgment - if you arrive at 7:20 despite knowing you should have arrived by 7:00, it's best that you own up to it as soon as possible. Remember, the consequences of you arriving late are usually smaller (especially if it's your first offense) than if you were to lie about it and then get caught.

27. Can I fill in a timesheet for someone else?

Filling out a timesheet and adding time for others for someone else is legal - especially if it's your supervisor filling out your sheet for payroll purposes.

However, you'll still need to verify your timesheet for accuracy - if there are inconsistencies, you will need to notify and talk to the supervisor. If everything is correct, you will also usually need to legally sign the timesheet, thus marking it approved by you, i.e. the person who worked said hours.

28. A former employer is refusing to give me copies of timesheet records - how can I get these?

By law, your employer is obliged to provide you access to your timesheets, especially if you have yet to be paid for that time - what's more, some states require that the employer who failed to pay you for the hours you worked on time eventually pay up to 3 times of your official wages + attorney fees.

So, if you're experiencing any problems with your former employee refusing to give you copies of your timesheet records, it's best that you consult a specialized attorney to provide advice about further actions you should take.

29. How to avoid a user filling out timesheets for old projects?

If you're worried that your employees might add additional time entries to already completed and invoiced project, resulting in inconsistencies in your company's time records, you'll need to take precautions - you can do that with Clockify:

THE HOLIDAYS

30. When are state holidays observed?

If the national holiday falls on Saturday it's observed on the prior Friday for workers working from Monday to Friday. If the national holiday falls on Sunday it will be observed on the following Monday.

Here are the national holidays your company will need to consider:

Federal, state, and local laws don't require US national holidays to be paid, nor do they require that the company closes during those days - in practice, whether these holidays are paid or not, whether the company works on these holidays or not, depends on the individual company's policy.

In relation to that, the timesheet rules also differ - if it's a regular working day in your company, you should add hours to your timesheet just like you would for any other workday. If your company is on unpaid or paid leave for the day, mark it as such in your timesheet.

31. What if you're a contractor with a paid holiday week and overtime - is a holiday week 0 hours on a timesheet, or does it fall under your total project time?

Contractors often have an agreement regarding the overtime hours they work - for example, you may have a contract for 48 hours per week during the course of 20 weeks. Everything beyond that number is considered overtime.

However, when you also have 1 paid holiday week during the course of the 20 weeks, it may be difficult to decide how to classify this time in your timesheet - under your total project time, or as a holiday?

This is another timesheet question that depends solely on the company you're contracted to work with - some companies will count the 48 hours for the holiday week as a holiday (i.e. time separate from the project), and others will count it as part of the project's total time. If unsure of how to add this time to your timesheet, ask the relevant personnel in your contracted company.

TIMESHEET WORKFLOWS

32. How to schedule a timesheet?

To make sure your timesheet system runs like a clock, you'll need to devise a schedule where your team has to log a certain number of working hours within a fixed time period. In order to schedule a timesheet, you'll need to set up a reminder system that will make sure the employees log their work hours in the scheduled amount.

In Clockify, you can set time tracking targets for your team, and then have them be automatically reminded via email if they haven't yet logged the daily/weekly minimum of hours in their timesheets.

timesheet reminders

33. What do people timesheet for bathroom breaks?

Bathroom breaks tend to fall under short breaks - as such, they are treated as unpaid payments according to FLSA rules and regulations that don't require payment for breaks under 20 minutes.

In line with that, some employers require employees to log their bathroom breaks, or to simply log off during the break time and start their timers again only once they resume work - the employees don't get paid for this time.

However, the employer may get into trouble for leaving the bathroom breaks unpaid - one company from Pennsylvania was sued and had to pay $1.75 million for requiring their employees to dock out during bathroom breaks.

If you are a freelancer billing by the hour, it's essentially up to you to decide how you'll handle break time in your timesheets - one option is to use a Pomodoro timer for your work, and divide your workday into 25-minute work sessions and 5-minute breaks you'll then be automatically reminded of. Then, you can use the 5-minute time intervals for bathroom breaks when needed.

34. How to create a timesheet in Jira? Or in other popular project management and business tools?

To quickly create and export data from Jira and other popular project management and business tools for timesheet purposes, simply use Clockify's extensions for Chrome or Firefox.

You'll be able to track time on Jira tasks and have them automatically synced with Clockify's web version where you'll be able to export them in timesheet form to Excel and CSV in a couple of clicks.

Jira time tracking integration Trello time tracking integration Asana time tracking integration

35. How to add overtime to a timesheet?

A standard workweek is usually 40 hours per week at the least - the actual number of standard work hours per week depending on your company policy. Anything over that time is considered overtime.

Salaried employees are typically exempt from FLSA rules and regulations and thus are not entitled to overtime pay - but, non-exempt hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay, and should be extra careful when adding this time to their timesheets.

One efficient way of adding and calculating overtime pay is using a time card calculator - you'll be able to set your overtime pay and have your overtime hours calculated automatically based on your overtime rate.

time card calculator

AUTOMATING TIMESHEETS

36. How to create a simple timesheet in Google Sheets? How to make a timesheet in google sheets? How to prepare timesheet in Excel? How can I get Excel to do my timesheet automatically?

If you're keen on creating your own simple timesheets in Google Sheets or Excel with formulas that automatically calculate your work hours, we have an extensive guide on the subject you can read about and follow here.

excel timesheet

37. How can we automate timesheet compilation company-wide?

Automating timesheet compilation company-wide is only possible by using a timesheet software - this way, all your employee timesheets are grouped, sorted, and organized in one secure place.

The employees log into the software via their personal accounts and complete their timesheets - you, as the admin can then track and analyze their project progress in real-time.

38. Any funny timesheet reminders out there?

Sure there are! You can find plenty of funny timesheet memes to remind people to submit their timesheets here.

timesheet meme

39. What is a great free time tracking timesheet software?

As previously emphasized in these answers, our free time tracker and timesheet app Clockify makes an effective choice for tracking days and hours worked.

You'll get a reliable record-keeping software you'll be able to store months and years of timesheet data, for an unlimited number of users, projects, tasks, and clients.

Timesheet entering screenshot in Clockify

Within the timesheet page of the app, you'll be able to:

You'll also be able to view all your timesheet entries in a compact view (for a more economical format for printing), as well as export your timesheet data in Excel, CSV, and PDF.

Timesheet report screenshot in Clockify