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One of the big questions when working with hourly employees is how to calculate time for payroll.
Most payroll systems work with specific time intervals, like 15 or 30 minutes, and can’t account for shorter time periods. On top of that, tracked hours typically are recorded as hours and minutes.
To accurately create your payroll, you need to do some math to convert between the two and calculate the total time worked.
For every business, accurate accounting of employee hours is essential. You need to be precise, as potential mistakes can become a serious problem and can even lead to lawsuits. At the same time, you want to prevent your employees from committing time theft and protect your company.
The first step to correct payroll calculation is to establish a working system for time tracking. Then you need to apply the correct method for payroll time conversion of minutes. Finally, you must multiply the hours worked by the respective wage rate and subtract taxes and deductions to get to the final payout amount.
Let’s dig into the details.
There are many methods for calculating timesheet hours, but they all start with employees logging their time on jobs or work tasks. Their logged hours can be either dedicated to a specific project or can count for the total hours that a team member has spent working for a particular company within a time period.
Time tracking can be done by filling out paper timesheets, punching time cards, or with timesheet software. Today most companies use digital platforms to track hours.
Time clock apps have several clear benefits over old-school time cards, two of the most significant being improved accuracy and ease of use. Employees can manually enter the employee hours in a timesheet at the end of each day, or they can use a time tracking app for their time on the go.
You have to decide how to add up hours for payroll, and there are two primary ways to go about doing that:
1. Use the actual time that an employee has recorded. If they noted 5 hours and 13 minutes, use this number for their payroll.
2. Use rounded hours, which entails setting up your method for timesheet rounding. Then the minutes after a whole hour are rounded according to a particular process. In all cases, you should subtract any unpaid breaks and lunchtime.
You can choose to calculate based on the exact hours worked, but you need to ensure that your time tracking solution allows it
This is how the calculation works:
First, you must add the whole hours, which means 5 days multiplied by 8 hours — up to 40 hours per week.
Then you have to add the minutes. In this case: 13+7+4+9+2 = 35 minutes
The total hours for the week come up to 40 hours and 35 minutes. This addition is correct, but you cannot use it for payroll calculation, as the time is not in decimal format.
You may consider using rounding in your payroll calculations. While the practice of timesheet rounding is legal under federal law in the U.S., you must follow strict rules regarding how you apply it.
You cannot round to more than 15-minute intervals. You can use the following minutes after an hour: :00, :15, :30 and :45. When an employee has clocked in or out at times different from the 15-minute intervals, you can round to the nearest one, which can be either up or down.
You must also follow the 7-minute rule if you’re applying 15-minute rounding. It states that you round down if a logged time is within 7 minutes from such an interval. If it is above 7 minutes, you have to round up.
Here are some examples:
The logged time is 9:07 am. You have to round down to 9:00 am.
The logged time is 9:08 am. In this case, you have to round up to 9:15 am.
After you round up or down, you have to subtract the clock-in time from the clock-out time to receive the number of hours and minutes that an employee has worked during a specific day.
Let’s say the person clocked in at 9:08 am, rounded to 9:15 am, and clocked out at 5:28 pm, rounded to 5:30 pm.
First, you convert all hours in the 24-hour format, so 5:30 pm becomes 17:30.
Then you subtract 9:15 from 17:30, and the result is 8:15.
This means that the employee worked 8 hours and 15 minutes. Don’t forget that this has to be converted to decimal format before you use it for payroll calculation.
You can also use other rounding options, such as 5-minute- or 6-minute. In both cases, the rounding should be either up or down, depending on whether the logged time hits the half-interval mark.
The guiding principle for your rounding system is that it should never harm the interests of your employees. Failing to protect their right to fair payment can result in wage theft accusations and trials. You can set up rounding only in your employees’ favor, but you cannot legally round time always in your interest. A tried-and-true way you can opt for is to round the clock-in time in favor of the employee and the clock-out time in your favor.
Whichever method you choose — actual or rounded hours calculation — remember that if an employee has worked more than 40 hours per week, you are legally responsible for overtime pay. It’s typically 1.5 times the regular wage rate per hour. There may be other cases where you use the overtime rate, such as weekend working hours or other special occasions.
The next issue you need to tackle is calculating payroll hours and minutes. Whether you’ve used actual or rounded timesheet hours, you will end up with the logged time in the hours and minutes format.
However, if you calculate this time with the wage rate, you will not get the correct final payroll cost. You must convert the minutes into decimals or parts of one hour since the wage rate is formulated per hour.
To convert minutes into decimal values, you have to divide the minutes logged by 60 minutes.
Here’s an example. If an employee has logged 8 hours and 20 minutes, you need to divide 20 minutes by 60. The result is 0.33. So the time in decimal format is 8.33 employee hours. You can use this number in the next step, where you multiply by the wage rate.
Credit: Patriot Software
When you have the timesheet hours for a specific employee and convert the time in decimal format, you can move to calculate payroll hours. It entails multiplying the wage rate by the hours worked, which are in decimal form.
Here is a simple payroll calculations formula:
The weekly payment for this employee before tax deductions is $764.
You can calculate the final cost manually or using an employee payroll calculator online. If you’re using a weekly payroll calculator, you will have to input the hours worked for one week, but you can also find options for bi-weekly calculations.
When you’re considering calculating paychecks for your staff, remember that the total pay you will come up with does not account for taxes and deductions, i.e., this is the gross pay of the respective employee. The standard deductions you subtract before payouts include insurance premiums, retirement contributions, child support payments, and union membership fees. You will also need to withhold and remit federal, state, and local income taxes, as well as social security and Medicare, to get the final payment that an employee will receive.
Beyond the standard 40-hour work week, properly managing overtime becomes crucial for payroll accuracy and employee satisfaction. Overtime hours exceed the regular full-time employment hours within a given workweek. For example, any hours worked over 40 in a workweek are considered overtime in the United States.
These hours typically attract a higher pay rate — commonly 1.5 times the regular hourly wage, also known as "time-and-a-half." It's essential to accurately calculate and track these overtime hours to ensure correct payment and maintain compliance with labor laws. A well-integrated digital time tracking method can simplify this process, automatically identifying when an employee has entered overtime and applying the correct wage rate.
Remember, transparent and accurate accounting of overtime can help prevent disputes, boost employee morale, and maintain a healthy working environment.
You can eliminate much of the manual work involved in payroll calculations using Hubstaff. Hubstaff is a time tracking and payroll solution that can make payroll straightforward.
Employees can accurately track time on various devices. Then the information from the timesheets is automatically synced into the payroll system. You can automate the payment process by inputting the wage rates and setting the pay period; pay periods can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or twice a month.
Hubstaff time tracking app can integrate with popular payment systems, like PayPal, TransferWise, Payoneer, and Bitwage. It works seamlessly with accounting tools like Freshbooks, Quickbooks, and Gusto. You can use the automatic payment option or set up manual processing through these channels.
Besides making payroll more effortless for you, a time tracking and payroll solution builds trust and transparency for your team. Calculating hours can be contentious, so employees have no reason to doubt your approach when the process is automated and transparent.
Automate payments and avoid manual errors.