Should I bill for my lunch break?
September 20, 2004 10:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm working as an hourly contractor. I'm going to an office to do it. I'm there pretty much 40 hours a week. Does one deduct the 30 minutes it takes to eat lunch from one's billing for the day? It seems only fair to. But then, I don't have a choice. It takes me a while to drive there, and I have to eat once during the day. It's not like I bill them for commute time to and fro in the morning and evening. Should I expect them to float me 30 minutes to chomp some grub in the middle of the day? They're cool and will probably pay me whatever I ask. For this very reason, I don't want to handle this the wrong way. But I don't want to be nickle and dimed to death either. What am I supposed to do?
posted by scarabic to Work & Money (10 answers total)

a) Talk to the client, reach an agreement on what's billable, put it in writing. It sounds like they're reasonable people, so this may very well work out well for you. They may even be fine with adding commuter pay!

b) If you haven't already settled on a fee, pad out your quote a bit extra to cover the commute/lunch/breaks. And while you're at it, don't forget to make sure you've got enough to cover sick time, vacation, healthcare, retirement, and all the other benefits that are your burden now instead of an employer's.

c) Bill hourly, just for the time you're actually working, period. Chalk it up to a a learning experience; next time you'll know to be prepared with plan A or B.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:52 PM on September 20, 2004

If you leave your desk to eat, you don't charge. If you eat while you work, you charge. You don't charge for the commute unless you specifically agree to it beforehand.
posted by mkultra at 10:54 PM on September 20, 2004

If you eat at your desk, your mere availability during that 30 minutes is worth the cost. Of course, you have to be available to answer questions, and drop the food to do work in time-constrained situations.
posted by davebug at 10:56 PM on September 20, 2004

Charge for actual hours "worked." You shouldn't charge for lunch or commute, but rather raise your rate to compensate you for both next time.

posted by pwb503 at 12:47 AM on September 21, 2004

Ask them.

If you're running out for 5 minutes to pick something up, and eating at your desk while working, you usually charge unless they have weird HR policies. They may tell you to put a 1/2 down but add a 1/2 at the end of the day or something if they do.
posted by amberglow at 4:48 AM on September 21, 2004

The simple answer is that, as a contractor, it's a matter of contract between you and the company. If the issue wasn't specifically addressed while negotiating the agreement, the general principle in any third-party arrangement like yours is that you charge only for time actually worked -- if you work during lunch, then charge. If not, don't (note that what constitutes "work" can vary by situation -- if your importance is simply being available, then you might be "working" even if you're just in the building, and willing to respond if necessary. However, if the arrangement contemplates you actually doing something -- say, developing a billing system -- you wouldn't charge if you're reading the paper while eating your sandwich). However, since you are a contractor, you're always free to try to negotiate some other arrangement with the company.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:40 AM on September 21, 2004

I contracted on-site for almost two years, and it never occurred to me to attempt to charge for my lunch time.

Unless it's already been agreed to, I would say no, don't charge for time not worked.
posted by eas98 at 7:28 AM on September 21, 2004

Basicly what everyone else has said. I never charge for a lunch break but I do include an amount in my hourly to cover the cost of commuting and the time taken.
posted by Mitheral at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2004

It depends.

If you work while you eat, you bill for it. By work while you eat, I don't mean you have to be 100% functional, but, for example, if you're expected to say, talk to someone on the phone, or discuss business, or they don't want you to leave the building while you are on break, you bill for it. Basically, if it isn't 100% your free time, you're on their tab.

I quit a job on the spot where I was suddenly told I was expected to eat while I served customers / fixed computers and still book out for it. It's a point you shouldn't leave open to negotiation.

In my opinion, since you're doing contract work by the hour, it's best you work while you eat and get paid for that. That way you get more done quicker without compromising on quality and can move to the next paying job sooner.
posted by shepd at 10:04 AM on September 21, 2004

I think you are overthinking this. They are probably expecting you to put in a forty hour work week, don't you think? I would bill that and see if they have a problem.
posted by xammerboy at 12:30 PM on September 21, 2004

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