UK law regarding hourly wages and arrival time at employment.
June 6, 2019 4:34 AM   Subscribe

If my UK employer says that they expect me to arrive at my my workplace before my shift in order to login to systems and prepare my workspace beforehand, am I entitled to decline and/or request payment for this time?

I'm in the same situation as many: I have a job where I'm expected to be fully ready to start interacting with customers at the scheduled beginning of my shift, so I'm asked to arrive 10 minutes early each day to find a seat and log into the computer and phone systems.

The login processes at my workplace actually take 10 minutes at a minimum, so I'm risking a late start of I don't arrive 15 minutes early, meaning than my employer gets 75 minutes of my time each week without compensating me.

Additionally, my breaks and lunches are carefully scheduled and I'm not permitted to exceed their durations without consequences and I cannot beginning logging out of systems until the scheduled end of my shift so I'm functionally expected to remain at work for 5-10 minutes after each shift, mean that I may be working for up to 100 minutes each week without compensation.

Is there UK or European law that specifically addresses this phenomenon and the rights/responsibilities of employers and employees? Where I can learn some.conrete facts on this topic?
posted by chudmonkey to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hopefully this is relavent, even if it is not British. I had a similar situation in Canada, where they were able to get away with this because I was supposed to relinquish my seat to the next incoming agent fifteen minutes before the stated time of my shift. In practice that meant that the 9 to 5 shift was actually an 8:45 to 4:45 shift.

In my case there was no incoming agent as I worked until two A.M. when they were on a reduced agent coverage, and they had informed me that I should not log out of call rotation until I completed whatever call I was working on at 2 AM and then should stay in the system until I had actually finished processing the work from those calls. It was necessary for me to do some push-back due to the conflicting instructions - I once had a manager yell at me to get back into rotation around 2:25 AM because I was still processing these calls.

I faithfully amended my time sheet to record my actual times hitting the desk and finally standing up and this meant that they worked with me on this because I was able to get it on formal record of exactly what time I was working. I do not know if you can do this, but if you can get your actual times working logged where they can be inspected at the company by any workplace standards investigator it would go a good distance towards giving you negotiating room.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:53 AM on June 6

This page contains some useful information about this exact thing.

Generally speaking, if you are contracted to work a set number of hours, your employer should be paying for overtime. You should check what your contract says about this. It's a different matter for salaried employees, who can certainly be asked to do extra time for free, provided this doesn't push them below the minimum wage.

This is the sort of thing that unions are for.
posted by pipeski at 4:54 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]

And yes, do keep a record of the time you arrive and leave every day. The key time period is the time for which you are "at your employer's disposal". This starts as soon as you've arrived at the premises and are able to start doing something work-related. Encouraging any colleagues you're friendly with to do the same wouldn't be a bad idea either.
posted by pipeski at 4:57 AM on June 6

Does the extra time drop you below the minimum legal hourly wage (currently £8.21/hr)? Does your employment contract say anything about the extra time?
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:59 AM on June 6 [2 favorites]

I suspect that the European Working Time Directive - as interpreted in the UK - is the law that applies. Within this, I believe that the relevant part refers to "being on call". If you are sitting at home waiting for a call from your employer asking you to start some work - then that does not (normally) count for your working hours. However if you have to be at your workplace for this time - then it does. The time you spend getting ready for doing work seems to clearly fit into the latter category: during it you don't have the liberty to be doing what you like: you are doing what is necessary for your employer. It follows - IMHO - that, if you are being paid by the hour - then you should be paid for this time.
posted by rongorongo at 5:12 AM on June 6

You might also try calling Acas and see what they say. From what I can tell, you're probably entitled to be paid for the time, but there aren't any articles on their website that are exactly on point.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:14 AM on June 6

This is a common question in r/legaladviceuk; you could ask there if you want to be advised on the law and relevant authority and statutes.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:25 AM on June 6

I suspect that the European Working Time Directive - as interpreted in the UK - is the law that applies. Within this, I believe that the relevant part refers to "being on call".
Note that unlike other European countries, the WTD is routinely "opted out" in the UK. It's very common to be given a piece of paper to sign that says you waive your rights and opt out of the Working Time Directive when you start work, and incredibly common to be told that it's a standard part of your induction paperwork and you can't be hired without signing it (which isn't true).

Chances are the OP has opted out of the WTD, under coercion or otherwise.
posted by winterhill at 7:14 AM on June 6

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