Walmart Payroll Advances

A growing number of companies are helping workers gain access to payroll advances and loans, reflecting concern over the impact money problems are having on productivity levels and worker retention.

Employers, including Walmart Inc., have recently added these services. The aim is to help cash-strapped employees, many with damaged credit, cover unexpected expenses without resorting to high-cost debt.

“Employers have woken up to the fact that a majority of workers are having a lot of trouble simply getting by, never mind getting ahead,” said Sophie Raseman, head of financial solutions at Brightside, a company Comcast Corp. co-founded that provides financial guidance to workers and is testing payroll loans with some corporate clients.

Workers typically access the services online. The payroll-advance programs generally give employees the option to accelerate a portion of their next paycheck for a fee that often amounts to a few dollars. The loans are typically a couple thousand dollars, and are repaid through automatic payroll deductions over a few months to a year or longer. Approval and interest rates, generally 6% to 36%, often depend on factors including a borrower’s credit score.

Because the services deduct repayments from workers’ paychecks before the money goes to their bank accounts, default rates tend to be low.

According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey of 250 employers last year, 12% offer accelerated pay. The same percentage offer short-term loans repaid through payroll deductions. Another 4% and 6% plan to add the services, respectively.

Companies, meanwhile, are responding to data that indicate American workers are financially stressed. While incomes have been stagnant for many, expenses for items including health care and education have risen.

Employers are concerned about the impact on productivity and turnover. Research by Todd Baker, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy, looked at 16 companies in the U.K. that offered payroll loans and found that borrowers had, on average, an annualized attrition rate 28% lower than the rate for all employees.

Mary Haynes, chief executive of Nazareth Home, which runs long-term-care facilities in Louisville, KY, said the company began offering accelerated paychecks through PayActiv Inc. two years ago after realizing many of its staff were incurring late fees and using payday loans. PayActiv works with 500 employers, including Walmart.

Of Nazareth’s 400 employees, 338 are enrolled in PayActiv and 280 use it regularly, Ms. Haynes said.

The benefit attracts workers and saves Nazareth money, Ms. Haynes said, by “practically eliminating” its use of a staffing agency some workers preferred because the agency provided access to paycheck advances.

Typically, payday loans charge $15 for every $100 borrowed. Bank overdraft fees often cost about $35. In contrast, PayActiv charges $5 per pay period when an employee uses the service, which also includes financial counseling and online bill payments.

Some point out that a $5 fee can equate to a high annualized percentage rate on a small short-term loan.

Robyn McGuffin, a medication technician at Nazareth Home, says PayActiv has helped her avoid late and overdraft fees of as much as $80 a month.

Ms. McGuffin, 36 years old, says she typically uses PayActiv once or twice per pay period, generally for bills due before her next paycheck arrives. The Louisville resident also used it to buy a new car battery and cover her fiancé’s share of the household expenses when he was temporarily out of work due to a medical emergency.

Some employers pair loans or accelerated paychecks with online tools to help workers budget, reduce debt and amass emergency savings.

Walmart introduced salary advances in late 2017. It has seen employees rely less on payday loans and bank overdrafts, said David Hoke, who oversees health and well-being.

Employees pay $6 a month to use PayActiv. It is embedded in an app called Even, which also includes a budgeting service that nudges users to save surpluses. Walmart covers the cost for one month per quarter and caps the amount workers can accelerate at 50% of pay. Of the company’s 1.4 million workers, 380,000 are frequent app users, Mr. Hoke said.

For those in need of larger sums, some employers offer loan services that typically advance as much as $5,000, with repayments deducted from workers’ paychecks over four months to a couple years.

Lender Kashable approves “more than 60%” of applicants, said co-CEO Einat Steklov. It considers factors including job tenure and credit scores.

The average user has a subprime credit score and pays an annual interest rate of about 20%, Ms. Steklov said. Kashable’s default rate is 5%. Borrowers who leave their jobs before repaying in full generally switch to automated bank transfers.

Learn more about how Contractor Workforce Management can integrate with advanced pay software by reading our ebook.

Avoiding Buddy Punching

Close to 75 percent of small businesses in the U.S. are affected by what is known as “time theft” each year. Put simply, time theft occurs when an employee accepts pay for time they didn’t actually work. Staying clocked in during breaks, not clocking out to run errands, or checking social media during work are all examples of time theft.

However, the biggest cause of employee time theft doesn’t happen solo. It’s called “buddy punching.”

So, what is buddy punching?

Buddy punching is when a coworker punches your timecard (aka clocks in) in your absence.

Say you’re running late for work and you won’t be able to clock in on time. You send a quick text to a coworker asking them to clock in for you. Or you need to duck out a few minutes early and don’t want the boss to know, and you ask your coworker to clock you out at the actual end of your shift. Maybe you can’t show up for your shift at all. So your buddy does you a favor and punches your timecard by clocking in/out for you—thus the name, buddy punching.

Life happens to all of us. However, a few minutes here and there of coworker buddy punching can certainly add up on your payroll. According to the American Payroll Association, three-fourths of employers lose money to buddy punching, with employees getting 4.5 hours worth of un-worked wages each week.

In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If your workers are part-time and earn minimum wage, 4.5 hours of buddy punching equals a little over $30 per worker in stolen wages each week. That may not sound like much, but over a year, the average cost of buddy punching could equal close to $1,560 per employee. Since the majority of small businesses employ less than 20 people, multiple employees using buddy punching could cost your payroll upwards of $30,000 annually.

No small business owner wants to give away $30,000 in stolen time. Here’s how you can prevent buddy punching and get a handle on your payroll.

How to prevent buddy punching at work

Create a zero tolerance policy

The cheapest and quickest solution to buddy punching is addressing it head-on. If you don’t already have a formal buddy punching policy in place, now’s the time to put one together. Make it clear that there’ll be zero tolerance for anyone touching another worker’s timecard or using your timekeeping system under a different name—for any reason.

You don’t need to call out specific employees, but announce the buddy punching policy to your team as a group so everyone’s aware. Then print out a copy of the new buddy punching policy and post it where all staff can see it. If you catch an employee buddy punching, it’ll be grounds for termination.

Use passwords

Simple, but effective. Using passwords for employee timekeeping can be a low-cost obstacle to buddy punching. Set specific standards for passwords—including long sequences, numbers, symbols, and capitalization—that make them harder to share or input by another coworker.

Next, educate. In a time when personal data hacks are becoming more common, make sure your employees understand that sharing their timekeeping login could also mean sharing their personal data. If they give a coworker their password, they might be giving them access to personal information.

Get technology on your side

Outside of creating new workplace policies, new tech also provides business owners and managers more resources to prevent buddy punching. Most options are available with little added effort or cost. Instead of using their phone to ask their buddy to clock in for them, built-in features on employees’ devices can keep them clocking in when and where they should be.

1.GPS tracking

With today’s timekeeping software and mobile GPS, you can track an employee’s location as well as their hours. Similar to other smartphone apps, many timekeeping solutions come with GPS tracking and/or geo-fencing, which GPS-stamps an employee’s location on their timesheet when they clock in or only allows them to clock in when they’re within a certain radius of your business.

Depending on the software, employees are typically able to clock in once their GPS is activated or their mobile. Some timekeeping apps even continue to log employees’ locations and send updates to you throughout their shifts. That means you’ll see where employees are when they clock in, and in the case of geo-fencing, make it impossible for them to buddy punch when they’re off the premises.

2.Geo-fencing

Geo-fencing relies on GPS, WiFi, and cellular data to create an invisible “barrier” around your business. You decide how close employees need to be to clock in, whether it’s the parking lot or the front door. Once the barrier is set, an employee can only clock in after their device signals that they’re inside the perimeter.

And like GPS tracking, different mobile timekeeping apps provide different geo-fencing options. Employees either have to be within a certain distance to manually clock in on the app, or they’re automatically clocked in once inside the barrier. They can’t clock in at all away from work or be clocked in by someone else, thus eliminating buddy punching.

3.Biometrics

Turns out, there’s nothing quite like the real thing. Just like thumbprints and facial recognition ensure it’s actually us using our smartphones, the same biometric requirements can be used to confirm it’s the right employee clocking in.

Only 3 percent of employees who commit time theft are able to do so using biometric clocks. Biometric timekeeping eliminates buddy punching by using a unique fingerprint, handprint, or even retina scan. It can be an (almost) foolproof way of keeping employees from abusing your timekeeping system.

However, biometric time clocks can come with higher upfront costs and legal responsibilities. Several states have passed laws protecting employees’ biometric information and stipulating how their information can be used. In some cases, you must have employees’ written consent to collect and store their biometric data. Additionally, there are legal procedures for destroying data once employees leave and their biometric data is no longer necessary. You might also be responsible for notifying employees in case of a hack or data breach.

4. Selfies/Location Pictures

The latest version of Contractor Workforce Management includes an all-new Web Clock system designed for smartphones that can require the employee to take a selfie or a picture of the location.

When the employee clocks-in, they will be prompted to take a picture to verify attendance. This picture will then attach to the attendance record and can be used for review. If a picture is missed, managers will be notified and can look into the missing attendance log.

Which came first, buddy punching or poor attendance?

Remember: in many cases, buddy punching is a side effect of larger attendance issues, not the problem itself. While you’re already having these conversations with your team, take the opportunity to have a closer look at your overall attendance policy. There may be a deeper problem if employees are regularly taking advantage of the timekeeping system, punching in for each other, and not able to make it to work on time.

In addition to updating your policies and timekeeping system, try out a few of these other low-cost attendance tips:

  • Test drive the quarter-shift method
  • Enforce your attendance policy consistently
  • Hold return-to-work interviews after unscheduled absences
  • Put together an employee attendance performance plan
  • Provide rewards and recognition for good attendance

To learn more about biometric fingerprint readers and how they can help prevent buddy punching at your company, download our fact sheet.

In-House Payroll or Payroll Service?

This is a genuine dilemma with no straightforward obvious answer. Here are the main points to consider:

  1. Does a payroll service save time?
    • Employers still need to maintain employee records, PTO, accruals, and deductions on any system. This work does not go away with a payroll service.
    • Payroll services do not offer a payroll rules engine. If your organization has pay differentials, holiday pay, overtime, etc. these may not be automated and can be very time consuming to manage.
    • If processing payroll in-house, allow extra time for tax filings and payments.
  2. Is it cheaper to process payroll in-house?
    • Depends. The cost of running payroll in-house is much lower than using a payroll service, but if your organization needs to hire an extra person or pay overtime, then the savings may be minimal. If your existing staff can handle the extra work, mainly tax filing, then the savings can be significant.
    • Payroll services charge by employee or transaction. If your employees are paid minimum wage, are part time, or are paid subminimum wages under a Section 14(c) Subminimum Wage Certificate Program the proportion of the fees to payroll is relatively high.
  3. Cash flow
    • Payroll services require the money to be deposited early. With in-house payroll, the money does not leave your bank account until the direct deposit is released, or the employee cashes a paper check.
    • Payroll services take the taxes out each pay period including the employer taxes. With in-house payroll, the money does not leave your account until the taxes are paid.
  4. Direct Deposit
    • Direct deposit is supported by in-house payroll and payroll services.
    • With in-house payroll, the money can leave your bank account later.
  5. Tax Filings
    • Filing your own taxes takes time and has liability, as the filings must be done. However, many organizations do so.
    • If your organization only operates in one state, filing taxes is relatively straightforward. Filing in multiple states is more complex, even if there is only one employee in a state.
  6. Integration
    • MITC Payroll eliminates the need for Employee Imports and Timecard Exports. Payroll and Timecards are matched up, providing a tight audit trial. The employee check stub automatically displays in myMITC self service.
    • Payroll services often charge extra for General Ledger integration and do not always offer the flexibility in-house payroll does.
    • 401(k) and HSA filings are the same. Payroll services charge extra and may not do a very good job.
  7. Time and Attendance closings
    • Payroll services require the payroll to be processed earlier than with in-house payroll. This can have a knock-on effect on how much time managers and supervisors have to approve time and attendance, and payroll to audit time and attendance. The less time, the more likely the work will be rushed and not done in sufficient detail.
    • If a supervisor or manager needs to delay a time and attendance approval for part of any employee’s time and attendance, doing a “make up” payroll a few days later can be more complicated with a payroll service.

Company Implements DailyPay to Boost Employee Retention

As the aging population continues to grow, so does the need for care services. But supply isn’t keeping up with demand when it comes to the caregivers required to provide those services, creating unrivaled competition for workers.

To win over prospective employees, companies must differentiate themselves. For BrightSpring Health Services, that means offering daily pay to service providers, whose profession is often characterized by low wages.  

Is semi-monthly or bi-weekly payroll a thing of the past? Traditionally agencies only paid employees 24 or 26 times a year because the payroll process was so complicated. Now with fully automated time and attendance systems that eliminate the costs and risks of paper timesheets and integrate tightly with payroll, that concern may be misplaced

“Traditionally in our organization, we’ve paid people in a semi-monthly cycle, and that’s the way we’ve always done it,” Rexanne Domico, president of services and neuro rehabilitation at BrightSpring. “The idea really came up when we started talking about how do we pay more frequently? How can we crack that code?”

Louisville, Kentucky-based BrightSpring, which was formerly known as ResCare, is one of the largest providers in the United States employing over 20,000 caregivers, Domico said.

“The problem sometimes for this workforce is the ability to access pay when they need it,” she said.

With one in four caregivers living below the poverty line, that could discourage prospective caregivers and force them into different, more short-term lucrative lines of work. For example, candidates could receive immediate money waiting tables or earn higher wages working for Amazon, which raised its minimum wage for all employees to $15 last year.

“We fully believe that the companies able to attract and retain caregivers are the companies that are going to see the growth in the coming months and years in the space,” Domico said. “The ability to solve [for pay challenges] for this workforce is … a huge answer to this problem.”

Digging Into Daily Pay

BrightSpring began exploring its daily pay initiative about a year ago. The program, which is called “Pay Out,” went live at the end of 2018. It allows employees across the organization — not just caregivers — to access pay as it’s earned.

Already, about 9,000 employees are using Pay Out, Domico said, and the program is achieving what it’s meant to: attracting employees and improving retention.

“We are seeing a lot of interest when we’re talking with our applicants about Pay Out,” Domico said. “We see caregivers saying they’re picking up additional hours because they can get paid for those hours quicker than working somewhere else. We also see some early impact on retention with the people who are engaging in daily pay.”

New York City-based DailyPay, a financial solutions company, helps BrightSpring provide the benefit to employees.

DailyPay serves a number of companies in the health care space, including home-based care providers, such as BrightSpring and Menlo Park, California-based home care provider Care Indeed. Vera Bradley, Sprinkles Cupcakes and hundreds of other companies are also clients.

“It is not uncommon for a home healthcare company using DailyPay to see 30% to 50% of its caregiver population enrolled in this benefit,” DailyPay CEO Jason Lee  “These same companies have seen on average a 50% reduction of annualized turnover among the population of DailyPay users. The story is very clear: DailyPay is a benefit that caregivers are willing to stay for.”

To take advantage of daily pay, caregivers must first download an app on their phones. After employees complete a shift and BrightSpring confirms the hours, workers can access their wages immediately. When payday comes around, employees are given the remainder of their paycheck.

“It’s very new for us, so some of the results are pending, but I think what’s important in highlighting the program is just the actual determination to do something that’s different and see what the results are going to look like,” Domico said. “Through doing that, we’re likely to be able to attract more people to work, which attracts more opportunity for different types of contracts and relationships with different payers. That’s really what we’re after.”

“DailyPay is a no-cost to the employer benefit,” He said. “It is free to enroll into the service, and there is only a fee when an employee transfers money on the platform. There is a flat ATM-like fee of $1.99 for next day transfer or $2.99 for an instant transfer. This is usually employee paid, but it can be employer subsidized as well.”

Meanwhile, for BrightSpring, daily pay is a commitment to both industry disruptors and caregivers.

“You can either spend more money trying to attract and retain caregivers — or you can just try to do it better,” Domico said. “That’s where we really landed.”

Daily pay also requires real time attendance. Employee hours can be approved daily, processed into payroll and marked paid. Disputed hours can be withheld and paid later.