Time card approval: what is is, tips and tools

As a small business owner, you’re no stranger to the challenges of managing employee time cards. The manual process of reviewing and approving time cards can be time-consuming, prone to errors, and a source of frustration. 

But here’s the important question: how do you actually handle time card approval?

In this article, we’ll explore the process of time card approval and why automating it is essential. We’ll also introduce you to helpful tools and share straightforward tips for effectively managing the time card approval process. 

Save time on payroll.

Auto-convert timesheets into wages, catch errors, pay your team, and file taxes all in one place. 

What is time card approval?

Time card approval is an important step in managing employee attendance and making sure everyone’s paid correctly for their work.

Time card approval is the process of reviewing and giving the green light to employee time cards before their hours are used to calculate their pay. It’s like checking and saying “yes, these hours are correct” before the employees get paid. 

By approving time cards (also called timesheets), you’re making sure that the recorded hours are accurate and follow your company’s rules and legal requirements. This helps avoid mistakes, time card fraud, disputes, and problems with payroll. 

Why is time card approval important?

Time card approval ensures fairness and accuracy when it comes to paying your team. When you review and approve time cards, you can make sure that everyone gets paid correctly for the hours they’ve worked. 

It helps prevent mistakes, disputes, and problems with payroll. By having a clear process in place, businesses can follow the rules and regulations set by the law and their own company policies. 

Time card approval also helps you keep track of employee attendance and manage your workforce effectively. It’s an important step to make sure that everyone’s treated fairly and that your business runs smoothly.

The legality of time card approval

Proper time card approval plays a vital role in protecting businesses from legal issues. The law requires companies to keep employee time card records for a specific period, usually two years. 

By maintaining accurate records and implementing a time card approval process, businesses can avoid penalties and fines that could be imposed by the government.

The importance of accurate time tracking

Reliable employee time tracking helps in preserving records of each employee’s worked hours, but having a time card approval process ensures that the recorded hours are accurate before storing them. This prevents the risk of underpaying employees and having to pay them back wages.

The Department of Labor provides various methods to recover unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages, including:

  1. Supervision of back wage payment by the Wage and Hour Division.
  2. Legal action by the Secretary of Labor to claim back wages and additional liquidated damages.
  3. Employees having the right to file a private lawsuit for back pay, liquidated damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.
  4. The Secretary of Labor being able to obtain an injunction to prevent violations of the law, such as withholding proper minimum wage and overtime pay.

How time card approval works 

Step 1. Submission 

The first step in the time card approval process is when employees submit their time card information for review. They can either hand in physical time cards if they manually write down their hours or complete electronic time cards if the company uses modern time tracking software.

Step 2: Review

Next, you or a manager will carefully review the hours recorded on the time cards. They have the authority to either confirm the hours as accurate or reject them if any adjustments are needed. 

In some cases, if a time card is rejected, it may be sent back to the employee to make the necessary changes themselves.

Step 3: Approval 

The final and crucial step is when you approve and sign off on the time cards. This signifies that the time data is verified as correct and ready to be used for payroll. 

It’s an important final check to ensure that the payroll calculations are based on accurate and approved time records.

Time tracking methods

From traditional punch cards to modern biometric systems, businesses have various options for tracking employee work hours accurately. Mobile apps and web-based time clock tools like Homebase offer flexibility and convenience, allowing employees to track their time from anywhere. By utilizing reliable time tracking methods, you can improve the accuracy of your time card records.

Streamlining time card approval 

By implementing accurate time tracking methods, businesses can streamline the time card approval process. With reliable data at hand, managers can review and approve time cards efficiently, reducing the need for extensive back-and-forth communication or manual calculations. 

This not only saves time but also improves overall productivity and minimizes administrative burdens associated with time card approval.

Ensuring fair compensation 

Accurate time tracking not only benefits businesses but also ensures fair compensation for employees. When time cards reflect actual hours worked, employees can trust that they will be paid accurately for their efforts. 

This promotes a positive work environment and fosters trust between employers and employees, contributing to higher job satisfaction and employee retention.

Embracing technology 

Modern time tracking technologies, such as biometric systems, mobile apps, or web-based tools, offer convenience, accuracy, and efficiency. By embracing these technological solutions, businesses can simplify time tracking for employees and streamline the time card approval process. 

It enables real-time tracking, automated calculations, and seamless integration with payroll systems, reducing manual errors and increasing overall accuracy.

Tips for more effective time card approval

Set clear deadlines for timecard submission

Make sure employees know when they need to submit their time cards. Clearly communicate the deadlines and explain the consequences of submitting late. Having specific deadlines helps avoid delays and ensures that approvals can be done on time.

Simplify the approval process

Create a straightforward approval process that eliminates unnecessary steps. Clearly define who needs to approve the time cards and establish a system for handling any issues or escalations. 

Using technology to automate notifications and routing can reduce administrative work and speed up approvals.

Use time tracking software

Take advantage of time tracking software that offers efficient time card management features. Look for software that allows employees to easily record their hours and provides managers with an easy-to-use interface for reviewing and approving time cards. 

Automated calculations and real-time data visibility can greatly speed up the approval process.

Improve communication channels

Establish effective communication channels between employees and managers for time card submissions and clarifications. Encourage open dialogue and provide platforms like email or dedicated software for employees to seek clarification or make adjustments to their time cards.

Clear and prompt communication can help resolve any issues quickly.

Conduct regular training sessions

Hold regular training sessions to educate employees about the importance of accurate time tracking and proper time card submission. Provide clear instructions on how to fill out time cards correctly and address common mistakes or misunderstandings. 

Well-trained employees are more likely to submit accurate time cards, reducing the need for lengthy back-and-forth communication during the approval process.

Best time card approval tools 

When it comes to choosing the right time card approval tool for your business, it’s important to consider the features, pros, and cons of each option. Let’s take a closer look at some popular tools and what sets them apart:


Homebase is a comprehensive time tracking and scheduling tool that offers robust time card approval features. It provides an intuitive interface, customizable approval workflows, and seamless integration with payroll systems.

  • Pros: Homebase is ideal for small businesses and offers additional features like employee scheduling and team communication.
  • Cons: While Homebase offers many features, some advanced functionalities may be limited to paid plans. Additionally, occasional software updates could affect the user experience.

Toggl Track

Toggl Track is a popular time tracking tool that includes time card approval capabilities. It offers a simple and intuitive interface, detailed time reports, and customizable approval workflows. 

  • Pros: Toggl Track is known for its ease of use and provides real-time visibility into employee hours.
  • Cons: Toggl Track’s advanced features may only be available in higher-priced plans. Some users may find the interface less visually appealing compared to other tools.

Time Doctor

Time Doctor is a comprehensive time tracking and productivity management tool that includes time card approval features.

  • Pros: It offers real-time monitoring, automatic screenshot capture, and detailed activity reports. Time Doctor is suitable for remote teams and provides in-depth insights into employee work patterns.
  • Cons: The extensive features of Time Doctor may be overwhelming for small businesses with simpler time card approval needs. It may also have a steeper learning curve for both managers and employees.


Deputy is a workforce management software that encompasses time tracking, scheduling, and time card approval functionalities. 

  • Pros: It offers a user-friendly interface, compliance alerts, and seamless integration with accounting and payroll systems. Deputy is well-suited for businesses looking for a comprehensive solution to manage their workforce effectively.
  • Cons: Some users may find Deputy’s pricing structure comparatively higher than other tools. The extensive features may also require additional time and effort for initial setup and training.


ClickTime is a cloud-based time and expense tracking software that includes time card approval features. It offers project management, resource allocation, and budgeting capabilities. 

  • Pros:ClickTime provides a customizable approval workflow and seamless integration with popular accounting systems.
  • Cons: ClickTime’s interface may be overwhelming for some users due to its extensive functionalities. Some users have reported occasional glitches or slower performance when handling large amounts of data.

Remember, the best tool for time card approval ultimately depends on your specific business needs and preferences. Consider the features, pricing, and user-friendliness of each tool to make an informed decision.

Save time on payroll.

Auto-convert timesheets into wages, catch errors, pay your team, and file taxes all in one place. 

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