KPMG employees face £100 late timesheets fine

Time sheet due written on a sticky note stuck to a telephone
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KPMG has reignited the longstanding timesheets debate after angering employees with its new policy to fine staff £100 if they fail to submit their paperwork on time.

KPMG’s new policy to encourage timesheet punctuality has unsurprisingly irked some employees. According to the FT (paywall), some employees have vented how the firm's overbearing approach "treats them like children".

KPMG, noting that its aim is a 100% completion rate, said that it has emphasised to employees why time sheets are important. In a statement, KPMG reasoned that by introducing a fine the firm can “accurately track our revenue, record our work for clients and plan our resource effectively”.

The Big Four firm will dock the £100 out of employees’ individual bonus. Those that submit their timesheets on time will surely be rubbing their hands as each fine means the overall bonus pool increases.

Whether the £100 fine is dished out to those who breach the policy depends on the partners who run the individual business areas. KPMG will offer some deadline flexibility to staff members who are unwell or out of office for other reasons.

KPMG’s method is sterner than their Big Four cohorts; EY's policy does not include monetary fines, Deloitte opts for email reminders, while late submissions at PwC have to be authorised by the employee’s manager.

“What a way to treat your staff”

News of KPMG’s stick approach as a management style incited robust criticism on social media and invited a debate about the relevancy of timesheets.

“This outdated managerial behaviour has no place in the profession,” said Cheap Accounting’s Elaine Clark. In a series of tweets, Clark advocated for “an examination of this outdated concept which existed back in my Big Four day over 30 years ago”.

 

She added: “If large organisations can't manage staff without timesheets then they need to look at why. Teams are "small" enough to manage people without fear of them hiding.

“Why should there be a difference between big firm and small firm managerial behaviour and style? I don't want to exist in a world where my manager (if I had one) needed a timesheet to know what I was doing, if I did a good job, if I made a profit for the business, [and] wanted me to account for 100% of my time so they could waste time doing later write offs.”

AccountingWEB blogger and founder of bookkeeping practice But the Books Zoe Whitman also raised an eyebrow over KPMG’s employee engagement: “We keep timesheets because they give some good stats and make sure our charges are right, not to monitor hours the team are working. I have staff working remotely and it's about mutual trust.”

Still an essential part of the process?

Not everyone disagreed with KPMG’s punishment logic, per se. Responding to Elaine Clark’s tweets, Helen Brennan, a director of audit quality at KPMG (who, it's worth noting, is not involved in the decision process of this measure and only became aware of this story once it was picked up in the press), said:It probably does look that way from the outside. But the regulator looks at our time recording and this is the consequence.”

She did later add that penalty regimes tend to have unintended consequences. “In this case, for example, the need to simply get it filled in ASAP won’t necessarily mean accurate reporting. And it would be a good idea to have a proper look at why people aren’t doing it on time.”

Timesheets remain an essential part of the process then it is reasonable for a firm to sanction its staff if they don't bother comply.

Jonathan Smith, a portfolio CFO and adviser to CXOs, commented on LinkedIn: “If consulting firms don't bother with timesheets they won't get paid. It's not realistic to expect such firms to drop them, and as timesheets remain an essential part of the process then it is reasonable for a firm to sanction its staff if they don't bother [to] comply.”

But as a recent Any Answers highlighted, firms are now exploring clocking-in app alternative. Tech-first former practice owner Della Hudson naturally leaned towards using an app to see where she spends her time instead. “As a ‘new’ business I want to know when it’s worth outsourcing admin, which work generates best hourly. They’re approximate as I have better things to do with my time than track every single minute,” she tweeted.

The longstanding debate continues

The wider debate around timesheets has rattled on for many years. Just last year AccountingWEB regular atleastisoundknowledgable investigated the practicalities of dropping timesheets altogether. Even then, the discussion had characterised timesheets as inflexible and time consuming when viewed against fixed fees.  

Foreshadowing KPMG’s aforementioned tactic, KevinMcC found from his experience in a mid-tier firm that timesheets were “used as a stick to beat people with and can be divisive”.

In a similar story, Jennifer Adams shared her relief when she joined a firm that no longer used timesheets, which had become a much-derided bugbear amongst her then mid-tier colleagues.

“What did you record when you went to make a cup of tea for everyone?" said Adams. "I remember we had an allowance for 'personal' time but at the end of the week you found yourself having to 'dump' time on one client or another just so the timings worked.”

Everyone wants fixed fees until there is a fees dispute and then they immediately want time records

But for every negative comment directed at the “strict time sheets” approach, the Any Answers thread provided a “yeah, but” rebuttal.

“My experience is that everyone wants fixed fees until there is a fees dispute and then they immediately want time records,” countered James Green. “If the dispute goes the whole way, it tends to be the very first thing small claims judges ask for and they never seem to accept fixed fees.”

However, there is a silver lining for KPMG employees. Those rocked by the late submission fine can feel relieved to know that the Big Four firm has dropped another equally unpopular policy following staff feedback where employees were charged for some lost IT equipment.  

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.

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04th Jan 2019 12:05

Total bad idea and poor PR for them.

The worst offenders will be senior partners who wont pay or wont care about the fine.

It will just [***] the staff off and is a massive own goal.

Far better off offering rewards for those who submit the paperwork on time or bonus those with the most chargable time.

Fining staff who probably all work 10 hours more than they get paid for is appalling.

I would be looking elsewhere if this Victorian style work house approach was forced on me.

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04th Jan 2019 12:07

It's refreshing to get amusement from a source other than Brexhit, in particular to learn that the 21st century way to settle timesheet grief is via an app with people clocking in and out :)

35 years of timesheet grief and now 12 years without, so I have no need to debate it.

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By DJKL
05th Jan 2019 00:08

No idea if ICAS/ICAEW etc still need experience workbooks from trainees, but my timesheets were the data source to help complete the quarterly summaries re hours spent doing x or y which was needed to qualify. (Not that I did)

In fact above my head in the attic in the house is a tin box with my ICAS experience records from 1985 onwards together with photocopies of all the relevant timesheets and my work diaries.

Even now, though my work diaries no longer detail client time as I do not work in practice, the last 19 years' diaries since leaving practice are all retained in a very big drawer in my office desk-habit, a bit like the other one acquired at that time-never leave client records/files in a car, always take them with you ,on pain of death.

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05th Jan 2019 11:31

Every firm is entitled to monitor their employees performance and in large organisations the timesheet is an adequate way of so doing though i take the point about teams . Elaine has been sidetracked somewhat me thinks, the question of forecasting and billing is i agree an entirely different manner, what does she suggest they operate? For too long many practices mainly solicitors have got away with grand larceny by charging out their staff and partners on a multiple of 'salary' based on an hourly (6 minute ) rate with little consideration given to the level of advice required and time that the task should be completed in. This year I am starting timesheets again for me only as i don't know where the time goes. all my charges are pretty much pre set so it will be interesting to see what happens. HNY

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By DJKL
to carnmores
05th Jan 2019 22:59

It is all your CPD on Accounting Web reading and answering questions, certainly seems to be where most of my hours are consumed.

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05th Jan 2019 11:57

duplicate

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By Ian Bee
07th Jan 2019 11:03

It's a long time since I worked in a large firm but from recollection time sheets never recorded time accurately. Aside from the time spent making coffee etc there was also the unrecorded overtime that was done.

Despite regular instructions from partners to record all time, it was easier to work overtime but not record it rather than be faced with a WIP balance that couldn't be recovered and you would then need to explain the write off.

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08th Jan 2019 10:49

Can you send a blank one in and then amend it later, to avoid the fine?

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08th Jan 2019 10:59

I drew the line years ago when I found that a firm I had applied to expected me to account for "human time" - i.e loo breaks - on my timesheets. Unbelievable!

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08th Jan 2019 11:29

Re comments of Elaine Clark and others in the post:

1. It isn't a "fine", it is a reduction of bonus.

2. The issue of the write-offs is a separate one and indicates that the charge-out rates are tool high if write-offs are a regular feature. We set a sensible rate for everyone and aim to get 100%. Last year we managed 106%, this year is running at 99%.

3. Getting time posted ASAP increases accuracy rather than diluting it, as nobody can remember what job they were doing and how long they spent on it even the following day.

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08th Jan 2019 14:15

I would suggest additional hourly penalties of £10 per hour if more than 1 hour late up to a maximum of 90 hours and then further penalties of £300 and £300 if still not in after a further 1 or 2 days. But if the staff have a reasonable excuse..................

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08th Jan 2019 17:09

For greater efficiency and lower write-offs, KPMG should buy office seats with built in toilets. Staff simply whip down their pants discreetly so they can carry on working when doing the business. This will free up space where the office loos are and save a lot of money on expensive plumbing and CCTV cameras to monitor loo usage.

Trebles all round at the bar for the KPMG partners!

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17th Apr 2019 07:55

Time sheets are one of those things that are really hard to deal with but really do have to be done for a lot of these firms to actively manage their internal accounting and billing functions. I had a really tough time with it when I first joined, so I ended up just setting a calendar invite (and, later, a phone alarm) just to help get myself in the mentality of always doing it at the same time. Organizations like USPS offering extra work hours through liteblue to compensate the late time. I think every organization should provide this opporunity

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12th May 2019 19:42

It's refreshing to get amusement organizations like USPS offering extra work hours through liteblue to compensate the late time. I think every organization should provide this opporunity

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