8 Timekeeping Considerations for EMS, Fire and Public Safety Departments

Public safety agencies have a lot of moving parts. In addition to your daily operations, there is one thing you don’t want to mess with and that is your payroll process. With a 24-hour operation, ensuring accurate and timely pay for your employees should be at the top of the list of things you evaluate when looking at your business processes.

Whether you’re a department with full-time, part-time staff and/or volunteers, you have a lot to think about when selecting a timekeeping solution. If you only have volunteers or part-time staff now, what will happen when you hire full-time employees?

Things to consider:

  • How much time are you spending each day, week, or pay period manually adding up time or doing calculations? (after all, time is money – wouldn’t you rather free up your time for something else?)
  • How much does your payroll company charge you to re-run a one-time payroll process due to an error on your part? How often this happen?
  • Are your agency’s policies complicated as it relates to timekeeping? If so, can you look at simplifying them?
  • Do you have a software solution in place to help you save time/money?
  • What will happen if your agency grows or changes?

If these questions have piqued your interest, read through the 8 Ways to Improve Timekeeping for Your Company…

  1. Connect Scheduling & Timekeeping – How much time are you spending comparing your schedule to your employees’ time card? How much time are you spending dealing with issues related to employees that are late or absent? Are you calculating overtime manually?

    Your employees’ time card and schedule should be connected. Using software that is tailored to your industry, when an employee comes in to work, your timekeeping system should be checking against their scheduled shift to verify their timeliness. Keeping these two systems together is the best way to simplify and streamline your operations.
  2. Select the Best Timekeeping Software – Fire, EMS and other public safety departments have very unique needs. You’re running a 24-hour operation. Many software solutions won’t accommodate this. Research the best timekeeping software for you. eSchedule partners with agencies who need help customizing a solution to meet their needs. Capterra offers reviews of companies, like eSchedule, who may be a good fit for you.
  3. Explore Time Entry Options – There may be many ways to get time data entered into your timekeeping software. A standard punch in & punch out system is common. However, companies like eSchedule offer numerous ways to easily enter time into the software, either by the employee, management or through an automatic transfer from the employees’ schedule.
  4. Paid Time Off Considerations – Your scheduling, timekeeping and PTO systems should all be integrated together. This is the most efficient way to keep track of PTO accrual banks, approval of days off as well as ensuring proper payment through the payroll system. Things to consider are automatic accruals, PTO approval by seniority or # hours worked or both.
  5. Evaluate Your Policies – Some agencies have sticking points that make timekeeping more difficult including stipends, labor distribution and multiple pay rates. A change in policy can make your life so much easier on the back-end when it comes time to run payroll. Work with your management to identify areas for simplification. So long as it doesn’t have a major effect on your employees’ benefits or compensation, chances are it won’t be a big deal.
  6. Reporting – Do you have people that are chronically late? Do you have easy access to reports at the click of a button that show proof of their tardiness? What about people that always forget to punch in or out? How about employees who may be “milking the clock” to get extra pay for no valid reason. Without access to accurate reports, you won’t be able to easily attack these issues.
  7. Integrate Timekeeping Software & Payroll Software – There should be no need to manually enter anything into your payroll software or provider. This is where a lot of errors happen (and a lot of time is spent!). Find a solution that will allow you to easily export time card data so that you can import or upload it into your payroll software. eSchedule is a great option; each customer’s account has a customized payroll file that meets the specific needs of the software or payroll company.
  8. Find a Payroll Partner – Standalone software products work well (QuickBooks, for example), but finding a payroll provider that is willing to partner with you is even better. Particularly in the case of a complicated payroll policy, let them handle process for

New Feature: Text Message Alerts

It seems like everyone is using text messages more and more as a primary means of communication. Given this, we’ve added a new feature to our automatic notification alerts. In the past, your employees would receive e-mail notifications for certain automatic triggers (see list below). Now, they also have the option of receiving text message alerts as well!

The available alerts for text messages includes:

  • General message notifications
  • General pager notifications
  • Event notifications
  • Shift swap notifications
  • PTO notifications
  • Shift bid notifications

Through the “edit user profile” screen, your employees can pick and choose which alerts they wish to receive. It’s important to point out that the “text message address” and “cell phone carrier” fields must be properly filled out in order for the text message alerts to function properly.

For complete details and a demonstration on how to activate the alerts, check out this video:

New Feature: Hybrid Shift Bidding

As we continue to enhance our powerful workforce management software, one of the areas we’ve focused on his how shift bidding and requesting is handled. Our development team has released a new feature that allows administrators greater control over shift pick-up requests.

For those customers who currently use the shift bid module, there is a new option to help control overtime hours. Here’s how it works:

  • You now have three options to allow employees to pick up a shift: (1) Immediate/No Approval; (2) Request & Admin Approval Needed or (3) New Hybrid Option
  • For number 3 above (hybrid option), once the employee has reached the max number of hours you set, the employee can then “bid” on the shift. Their request will sit in a queue until an administrator approves/denies the request.
  • Your agency must currently use the “shift bid module”. If you’re interested in adding this feature to your account, please contact us.
  • For those that already use it, this new feature is available now. Please contact us to activate it at no additional charge.
  • Your agency can choose the max number of hours that an employee can automatically reach when picking up an open shift.

As always, if you have questions or are interested in more information, please contact us at 1-888-433-6084 or

New Messaging Features

We’re currently rolling out an exciting new feature to EMS eSchedule customers.  Our upgraded communication tool now features the ability to send messages within the software itself.  With the latest enhancement, administrators have the option to send an internal messages which will be displayed on the main dashboard, viewed when users login.  This feature is in addition to the current options of sending out a text messages, pager messages or/or e-mails.

A few of the benefits include:

  • Ability to send a message to groups or selected individuals
  • Ability for members to “acknowledge” a message
  • Administrators can see a report that shows which members read and acknowledged a given message
  • Ability to set an expiration date for messages
  • Option to print message reports

In addition, we’ve enhanced the way message groups are handled:

  • Administrators can now see a complete list of all available message groups.
  • When an administrator selects a “group” to message, they can now see the individual members contained within the group.

These upgrades are currently being tested with a select few agencies. We plan to roll out the changes to all customers within the coming weeks. If you have questions, please contact us at