Key Steps To Calculate Time Cards Manually (Examples included)

Are you a small business owner who needs to keep track of your hourly employees' work hours? Whether you have just a few employees or a larger team, calculating time cards accurately is essential to ensure your employees are paid the right amount and to make sure you're not over or under-scheduling them.

Small business owners may find that manually calculating time cards is a good solution, particularly if they have few hourly employees and few work hours to record. When tracking hours using Excel spreadsheets, timesheet calculators, or other time-tracking tools, it is essential to understand math basics in working with hours. In this manner, you'll be able to identify and fix any unavoidable mistakes, even with the aid of a computer.

While using time and attendance software can be helpful, it's also important to understand how to calculate time cards manually so that you can spot and correct any errors. In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps to calculate time cards manually and highlight some common issues and solutions.

How to manually calculate time cards?

The lines below illustrate how to calculate time cards manually. For each step, you must follow a set of calculations to ensure an accurate result.

Step 1: Convert the time entries to 24-hour format

Let's say your employee started working at 8:45 a.m., took a lunch break from 12:00-12:30 p.m., and ended their day at 5:15 p.m.

We need to convert these times to a 24-hour format.

So, 8:45 a.m. remains the same, 12:00 p.m. becomes 12:00, and 5:15 p.m. becomes 17:15.

Step 2: Converting the minutes into decimal format

Next, we need to convert the minutes into decimal format. Divide the minutes by 60 to get the decimal representation. For example, 45 minutes becomes 0.75 (45/60 = 0.75). So, the clock-in and clock-out times for the first half of the shift are 8.75 and 12.0, and for the second half, they are 12.5 and 17.25.


  • ½ of an hour = 0.50
  • ¼ of an hour = 0.25
  • ¾ of an hour = 0.75.

Related: Find a detailed guide on converting minutes to decimal hours.

Step 3: Deduct the start time from the end time

Subtract the start times from the end times for each half of the shift. 

The calculation for the first half is 12.0 - 8.75 = 3.25; for the second half, it is 17.25 - 12.5 = 4.75.

Step 4: Sum the results from both shifts

Add the working hours from step three to get the total hours worked for the day. In this case, 3.25 + 4.75 = 8.

So, your employee worked a total of 8 hours for that day.

Step 5: Calculate the hours worked for each workday in the pay period

Repeat these steps for each day worked in the pay period and add all the hours together to get the total hours worked for the week. Multiply the total by the employee's hourly rate to calculate their gross pay before deductions.

Bonus Step:

If the employee worked overtime and is eligible for an overtime rate, calculate and note the overtime hours separately to ensure they receive the correct overtime pay.

FAQ Manual Time Card Calculations 

What are manual time cards?

Manual time cards are physical or digital forms that track and record employee work hours. They typically include information such as the employee's name, date, clock-in and clock-out times, break durations, and total hours worked for each day.

What are the challenges of manual time card calculations?

The challenges of manual time card calculations usually can be categorized in the following way:

  • Human error: Manual calculations are prone to mistakes, such as incorrect data entry or mathematical errors, leading to inaccurate time records and payroll discrepancies.
  • Time-consuming: Manually calculating time cards for multiple employees can be very laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone, especially when dealing with complex schedules or overtime calculations.
  • Lack of real-time data: Manual time cards may not provide immediate access to up-to-date information, making monitoring attendance or timely decisions based on accurate data challenging.

What are the common timecard errors?

The common timecard errors include:

  • Data entry mistakes: Employees or administrators may enter incorrect clock-in or clock-out times, leading to inaccurate calculations.
  • Missed punches: Employees may need to remember to clock in or out, resulting in missing time entries.
  • Round-off errors: Rounding off minutes during calculations can lead to small discrepancies in total hours worked.
  • Calculation errors: Mistakes made during adding or subtracting hours and minutes can result in incorrect totals.

Why time and attendance systems to avoid manual timecard errors?

Time and attendance systems automate the process of timecard entry and help avoid manual errors. These systems utilize biometric time clocks, web-based interfaces, or mobile apps to track employee attendance and record accurate time data. By eliminating manual calculations and data entry, time tracking and attendance tools reduce the risk of errors and provide real-time visibility into employee attendance data.

What is the difference between a time card and a timesheet?

Time card: A time card is typically used for daily or weekly tracking of an employee's work hours. It focuses on recording clock-in and clock-out times, breaks, and total hours worked each day. Time cards are often used for hourly or shift-based employees.

Timesheet: A timesheet is a more comprehensive record that covers a longer period, such as a week or a month. It includes detailed information about the tasks or projects worked on, along with hours spent on each task. Timesheets are commonly used to track billable hours or work done on specific projects.

Do employees fill out their time cards?

Employees typically fill out their time cards by recording their clock-in and clock-out times, break durations, and other relevant information. They are responsible for accurately reporting their work hours and ensuring the time card is completed according to company policies and procedures.

Should employees approve their time cards?

It is common practice for employees to review their time cards before sending them to their manager for approval. The manager or supervisor's approval serves as a verification step to confirm the accuracy of the recorded hours and ensures that any discrepancies or issues are addressed promptly. Employee involvement in the approval process promotes transparency and accountability and reduces the chances of disputes or errors in the time card data.