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April 8, 2023

8 Frequently Used Timesheet Codes and Their Meanings


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Tired of paperwork?

As businesses grow and expand, managing employee time and pay can become increasingly complex. Timesheet codes provide a solution to this challenge by enabling businesses to accurately track employee work activities and allocate resources more efficiently.

However, accurately sorting timesheets with the correct time codes is crucial to ensuring that employees are fairly compensated and that businesses remain compliant with labor laws. In this regard, businesses must implement reliable time code systems, including a timesheet reminder system, and educate their employees on the importance of using a timesheet for accuracy.

By doing so, businesses can streamline their operations, avoid legal consequences, and keep their employees happy and productive.

What are timesheet codes and how are they used in payroll?

A timesheet code is a unique identifier used to track and record the hours worked by an employee for a task or project during a specific time period. It is usually a combination of letters and numbers that represent the type of work or activity performed.

Architectural labor codes may be included in the standard labor codes timesheet for architecture firms to accurately track and bill for their employees' work.

Federal timesheet codes are used in payroll to accurately calculate an employee's pay based on the hours they have worked and the rate of pay for each code. By assigning a specific code to each task or project, an employer can easily record time spent on each activity, and ensure that employees are paid for their regular hours as well as hours of overtime worked.

8 examples of time codes for time cards

To gain a better understanding of the way time codes function, it would be helpful to examine the following examples of time codes utilized in time cards. By reviewing these examples, you can observe how they are structured and how they may vary based on the specific needs of the employer or industry. 

Understanding time codes is essential for accurately tracking work hours and ensuring fair compensation for employees.

Paid Time Off 

PTO codes are used to track the hours an employee takes off for vacation, sick leave, or personal time. Examples of PTO codes are VAC for vacation, SICK for sick leave, and PERS for personal time.

Paid Training 

Training codes are used to track the hours an employee spends in training, either online or in-person. Examples of training codes are TRN for training and DEV for development.

Unpaid Errands or Meetings 

Errand codes are used to track the time an employee spends running work-related errands or attending meetings outside of their regular time at work, which would be considered unpaid hours. Examples of errand codes are ERR for errands and MET for meetings.

Unpaid Leave  

Leave codes are used to track the time an employee takes off from work without pay. Examples of leave codes are FMLA for Family and Medical Leave Act, MIL for Military Leave, and UNP for Unpaid Leave.


Overtime codes are used to track any time an employee works beyond their regular work hours on time entry, usually at a higher pay rate. Examples of overtime codes are OT for overtime and DOW for double time. It is also important to note down what does OHL mean in payroll, where it refers to holiday pay for working overtime during a federal holiday.


An on-call code is used to track the hours an employee spends on call and available to work if needed. Examples of on-call codes are OCL for on-call and CLB for call-back.


A travel code is used to track the hours an employee spends traveling for work-related purposes. Examples of travel codes are TRV for travel and DST for destination time.


A break code is used to track the time an employee takes for a scheduled break during their shift. Examples of break codes are BRK for break and LUN for lunch.

How to assign the right pay codes when creating timesheet templates for employees?

When creating timesheet templates for employees, it's important to assign the right pay codes to ensure accurate and efficient tracking of employee time and pay. Here are some steps to follow when assigning pay codes to timesheet templates:

Define time reporting code categories 

Defining time reporting code categories is crucial for capturing essential data and generating accurate reports. 

For example, an electrician weekly timesheet with cost codes allows for tracking expenses and profitability of each job. On the other hand, an architectural labor codes timesheet app can provide detailed information on labor costs and project progress. 

By defining code categories, businesses can better understand their operations and make data-driven decisions that drive growth and success.

This involves identifying the different types of employee time that need to be tracked, such as regular hours, overtime, paid time off, and unpaid leave. These categories will serve as the basis for creating the timesheet codes federal employees.

Map codes as per organization's needs 

Once the time reporting code categories are identified, the next step is to map the codes as per the organization's specific needs. 

Mapping codes as per an organization's needs is critical for efficient time tracking and accurate reporting. For example, federal government timesheet codes must adhere to strict regulations and guidelines, so mapping them correctly is vital to avoid compliance issues. 

Similarly, a bi weekly timesheet with multiple job codes requires careful mapping to ensure that each job is accurately tracked and cost, and that employees are paid correctly.

An organization may need to track different types of paid time off, such as vacation, sick leave, and personal days, each with its own code.

Define units of measure 

Each pay code should have a specific unit of measure, such as hours, days, or weeks. This ensures that time is tracked consistently across all employees and that pay is calculated accurately.

Set up timesheet codes in agreement 

It's important to ensure that government employee timesheet codes are set up in agreement between HR, timekeepers, and managers. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that employee time is tracked accurately and consistently.

Provide clear and easy-to-find codes 

Providing clear and easy-to-find codes is essential for accurate time tracking and efficient payroll management. 

For instance, an excel timesheet with job codes enables employees to easily categorize their work hours, while a biweekly timesheet with vacation codes helps in accurately calculating paid time off. In both cases, clear codes simplify the recording and reporting process, ultimately saving time and reducing errors on sending off a timesheet for approval.

This can be achieved by organizing the codes in a logical manner and providing clear descriptions for each code. By following these steps, employers can create timesheet templates that accurately track employee time and pay, while also ensuring consistency and ease of use for their team. 

Timesheet template pdf with cost codes

We offer a free PDF Timesheet template cost codes . Use our template to track your time and expenses smoothly.

Final points on pay type codes for timesheets

  • Accuracy is key: It's important to ensure that pay type codes are accurately recorded on timesheets to prevent any errors in payroll processing. Make sure to double-check the codes before submitting the timesheets.
  • Consistency is important: Using consistent pay type codes across all timesheets will make it easier for payroll processors to calculate employee payments.
  • Keep it simple: While it's important to use specific pay type codes for different types of work, it's also important to keep the system simple and easy to understand for employees. Try to limit the number of codes used and make sure they are easily recognizable.
  • Communicate changes: If there are any changes to pay type codes or the way they are used, be sure to communicate them clearly to employees to avoid confusion.
  • Use a standardized system: Consider using a standardized government civilian time card codes system, such as the one provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

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