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August 3, 2006 1:40 AM   Subscribe

If an employer puts in place new security measures which can cause up to 5 minute delays on entering and leaving the building - should staff be paid for that time?

Since a new contract was won by my employer the security measures in place to restrict entry/exit to the building has been increased to the point where it actually causes delays with people queueing up to get in / out. This is because it's gone from a simple magnetic swipe card to a system with rfid tags and a pin with the further restrictions that only one person can go through the doors at a time. As well as following this procedure on the way in, it's also done on the way out.

The actual area of the building where the new sensitive work is being carried out is behind another set of doors where again this process again must be followed.

Is it reasonable for the employer to expect staff to turn up a few minutes earlier and effectively leave a few minutes later due to their increased security or should this time be taken out of the normal working day and be paid for?

UK - Scotland for legal purposes if this has any bearing.
posted by Leud to Work & Money (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

If that were my workplace, I'd turn up five minutes late and leave five minutes late as well. That way, nobody would have to pay any extra, either in time or money, for anything.

Presumably there would also be people willing to turn up and leave five minutes early.

Of course, if there were a fire and I had to wait and extra five minutes to evacuate, I'd be pissed.
posted by flabdablet at 2:13 AM on August 3, 2006

Part of any job is getting to the actual job - commuting through heavy traffic, construction, searching for parking, train delays, security, etc. I think that is your time at the door.
posted by blackkar at 3:34 AM on August 3, 2006

When I lived and worked downtown for a while, some days my commute in the elevator would be longer than my commute n the street, but it was my responsibility to be at my desk at 9:00, no matter how I got there.

I suppose you could argue that it is your responsibility to arrive at your worklace at your starting tme, and any delays in beginning your work once you get there is the responsibility of your employer.

Seems a little snippy to be arguing about 5 minutes though.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:52 AM on August 3, 2006

Back in my undergrad days, I worked at Centreville, on Centre Island in Toronto. To get there, we had to take a ferry that ran on a half hour schedule, and we had to arrive on the island with time for a 5 minute walk, change into uniform, and be ready waiting for the supervisor to assign us our duties for the day. So, we basically had to be at work half an hour before we were actually scheduled to start. During peak periods, the ferries would be more frequent, and if you were really lucky the supervisor might be a little late. So, on rare occasions, and if you were willing to run, you could get away with being 15-minutes late..

Not really an answer, I'm afraid.. I've no idea if that is actually 'legal'. I know everyone was pissed about it. It seems to be typical of how minimum wage labour is abused.. Oh ya, and we had to pay for the ferry ticket, at a reduced rate.

If I was trying to make happy employees, I would make sure to put myself in their shoes on issues like this. Even in my extreme example, paying for that extra half-hour would constitute less than a 10% raise.. There is another interesting aspect though. Making it simply paid time pushes everybody a couple of hours closer to overtime every week.. Maybe structure it as an on-time bonus or something :P
posted by Chuckles at 4:34 AM on August 3, 2006

You could just skim that time in breaks of coming in early or late. Your boss will probably never know the difference.

But if you want to make a point about it, here's what I'd try:

From a weekly perspective you're losing up to 50 minutes, so maybe have a talk with your boss about going home an hour early on Fridays, and when he balks, explain to him that there's only a 10 minute difference between 50 minutes and an hour. See what I'm getting at?
posted by furtive at 4:39 AM on August 3, 2006


Go to work and stop complaining.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 4:48 AM on August 3, 2006

No. It's part of your commute time.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:49 AM on August 3, 2006

As a boss, if someone bitched to me about this I would seriously reconsider any future promotions etc. That said, you didn't specify what sort of role you play in the organization. My perspective is from one where I employ professional at a high level; if you're an hourly caf worker things might be different.
posted by miss tea at 5:06 AM on August 3, 2006

where i work everyone is given an automatic 5 minutes added on to their daily total to allow for the length of time it takes for their pc to boot up, and all their applications to load up. I was a bit flabbergasted at this at first, but am starting to realise that some companies just have different cultures, and thats that.

So to answer your question, i used to think that this would be a crazy request, but now having seen a fair few more companies it doesn't seem so unreasonable to me at all.

// from an Irish company, in a heavily unionised company.
posted by kev23f at 5:28 AM on August 3, 2006


If your employer wants to strip search you, spray you down with chemical disinfectant, check your teeth and fingerprint you every morning, they need to pay you for the time it takes to do that. If they won't, then you should walk.

Getting to the place of business is a commute. Getting through employer's security and sign-in requirements is part of your job duties... otherwise your employer wouldn't require it.

Employers are always trying to get something for nothing. Don't let them.
posted by ewkpates at 5:40 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Chuckles, were you *required* to take the ferry by the company, as in, if you entered the island any other way would you be fired? The answer is probably no, you were required to take the ferry and walk because of the geography of the place. You can't require payment for geography. I'm sure if you wanted you coiuld have taken a helicopter or private plane... :-D

IANAL, but the moment an employer requires you to do something is the moment your time is money. If the employer requires you to enter through a certain method, and if said entrance takes time, you probably should be paid for it.

Asking to be paid for it, though, sounds whiny and stupid. I, personally, would just show up to the door at the time I was expected to start work. If it took a further 5 minutes to enter, I'd just be late by 5 minutes until the boss asked why. Considering there's likely security cameras and tapes at that entrance, you should have no problem proving why you are always 5 minutes late. Of course, I suppose this risks you being fired, but, again, you have proof positive you showed up to work on time in case you need EI.

Oh, and flabdablet, buildings with mantraps usually have alarmed emergency fire exits. If the building is on fire, you use one of those to get out really quickly. But if you use one to get out because you're lazy, well, then the fire department shows up with a bill for their time.
posted by shepd at 5:47 AM on August 3, 2006

Not that I'm an angel but typically if your start time is at 8am, you should be at your desk and working at that time, not just getting in the door. I had a boss (who really was a supreme asshole but did have realistic ideas) that told us that every minute that we charge should be time that was earned. You shouldn't charge clients for time sitting in the bathroom or getting coffee, etc.

I get to the office early so I can surf the internet a little and relax with a coffee. Isn't that an option with you?
posted by JJ86 at 6:03 AM on August 3, 2006

You shouldn't charge clients for time sitting in the bathroom or getting coffee, etc.

That's a bit of a different issue though, of chargeable time vs. non-chargeable time. It's a major headache for anyone who has to charge every hour back to the client but I don't think it really applies here.
posted by smackfu at 6:11 AM on August 3, 2006

You shouldn't charge clients for time sitting in the bathroom or getting coffee, etc.

That's crazy. And people who adhere to crap like that ruin it for the rest of us. Look, people are hired to work. Part of hiring people and not machines (because in most cases, we're still smarter) is understanding that people do things like go to the bathroom and take breaks. Because it makes them more productive. Geez.

Anyway, I'd say it's obnoxious that they expect you to do it on your time. But I'd probably aim for coming & leaving five minutes early and explaining to your boss that you are trying to avoid the rush. If s/he isn't a psycho, I'm sure it'll be fine.
posted by dame at 6:21 AM on August 3, 2006

The only decision here is to accept a company policy or walk to another job. The company does not pay for door time. If you ask them to they will look down upon you for the rest of your presumably short career there.

I would find another job to my liking and THEN make a big stink about it. You would get everyone riled up about it in your wake. Then the company will have a moral problem and you will be on to your next job.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:29 AM on August 3, 2006

Part of hiring people and not machines (because in most cases, we're still smarter) is understanding that people do things like go to the bathroom and take breaks. Because it makes them more productive. Geez.

Agreed, which is why I think bitching about 5 minutes is juvenile and stupid. I expect my employees to take breaks, surf the internet, and do a certain amount of chattting. i.e. I treat them as independent adults. if, in return, one of them was to complain about a five minue security procedure, I would conclude that he or she was a whiny idiot not worth treating that way.
posted by miss tea at 6:32 AM on August 3, 2006

Last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a case that had slight similarity.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:33 AM on August 3, 2006

I don't consider "every minute that we charge should be time that was earned" to be a realistic idea. There is usually a natural ebb and flow to any work day or work week, and there are bound to be times when there is nothing much going on. During these times an individual is being paid for their availabiity-- as in, as soon as any new work appears, there is someone there to address it immediately.

It's not advantageous for an employer to demand that employees are accountable for every minute of the time they are on the clock. People just wind up inventing work to fill the slow times. People who work faster and more efficiently wind up performing more work than those around them, which may or may not be noticed or rewarded. Also, it creates a paranoid environment wherein people are not only must concern themselves with constantly working, but with maintaining the perception that they are constantly working.

Humans don't stop being humans just because they have to work for a living, and if I ever found myself with a job that demanded I punch out to go to the bathroom or have a cup of coffee, I'd scram.

So to answer the poster's question, I say that you should be paid for the time, but if you are reluctant to pipe up about that, then simply take five somewhere else in the day. I doubt anyone will notice or mind. If you were ever asked to explain, all you have to say is that you arrive in a hurry in order to get through security so you can start on time, and that midmorning you usually like to take a few minutes to rebound from it. What's wrong with that?
posted by hermitosis at 6:38 AM on August 3, 2006

Your boss might not respond well to this, but I don't buy the "Your commute is your responsibility" argument. Once upon a time, employers built factories, offices and storefronts in centralized, publicly accessible locations. These days they can rely on the fact that their employees and customers will have cars, so they build out in god knows where. It's just one more way in which the corporate world has transferred overhead costs to their employees.

If the security check is a company-mandated exercise, then it should be on the company's dollar, not yours. That said, it's five minutes. Take a long lunch.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:41 AM on August 3, 2006

Hello...Did anyone think of talking to property management/security department and explaining that the system is impeding people. If you can be positive and work towards a better security solution, then it would be a win-win.

In these post (fill in your local terrorist stike date here) days office security is being increased across the board. It is not however necessary to have a security system that gets in the way. It could be suggested that the RFID and PIN or hand scan or whatever combination only be required for the sensitive areas and that the main entrances should only require a quick swipe of the RFID.
posted by Gungho at 6:49 AM on August 3, 2006

Raise these concerns with your supervisor and get a feel for how they want to handle it. We don't know what corporate culture exists there, and your supervisor is supposed to be the liason between you, and the other layers of management.

In terms of reasonable. I think both ways of handling it are resaonsble.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:19 AM on August 3, 2006

Agreed, which is why I think bitching about 5 minutes is juvenile and stupid.

You're right, and that should go both ways. If employees hit their desks 5 minutes later than the norm, and leave 5 minutes earlier, there should be no penalty -- but that's not the reality, no company we be accepting of the "it's just 5 minutes" argument when it's viewed to be to their detriment.

And this isn't just about 5 minutes, obviously. It's about more than 40 hours per work year. A full work week and then some is spent standing on a line because the employer requires it, with no benefit being accrued to any employee, and no choice given in the matter.

If this were a scheme of authentication for the computer system, one that involved a 5 minute ID process at day's start and a 5 minute accounting task at day's end, no one would expect Leud and his co-workers to arrive at 8:55 a.m. and depart at 5:05 p.m. to complete these activities because they aren't a part of their work, just a peripheral task. I fail to see how the entry/egress system is any different in function, only in form.
posted by Dreama at 7:26 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

5 min x 5 days/wk x 50 wks/year = 20.8 hrs/year

20.8hrs x ₤20/hr (theoretical) = ₤416/yr

I dunno, is it worth it to you to say something?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2006

To all of those who dismiss this post as juvenile and stupid, especially you, miss tea, get a clue. My time is just that, MY TIME. When I'm born, it's allocated to me, and it's all I get. I sell usage of a certain percentage of that time to my employer in order to pay for things I need during the rest of that time. However, even though I've sold the usage of that time, I have not sold the time itself. If an employer wants more time, they have to pay for it. It's that simple. If they don't want to pay for it, they don't get it. I don't care if it's five minutes or one second, IT'S MY TIME! I get paid for 40 hours a week. If they want me to stay one second more, they pay for it. If not, they don't get it. If I'm salaried, I'll stay late, but I come in later tomorrow to make up the time. You'd make me do the same if there was something I needed to do in my personal life.

This is the problem in the corporate world. All of the higher-ups have forgotten this arrangement, and just seem to think we'll take any level of abuse simply because they think we should be "grateful" we have a job. Dreama hit the nail on the head, the time adds up. In fact, he's also provided the solution: give the employees an extra week of vacation to account for the difference. The amount of time is the same. Won't do it, will they? Nope, because their budgets are more important than your life.

Leud, leave in the morning at the same time as you normally do and get to your desk five minutes late. Leave five minutes early so you can get home at the same time. If they give you a hard time about being late, tell them you agree completely, but your hands are tied. I had a similar issue a few years back. It was different in that I will agree that I was being somewhat petty, but I hated this employer, so I didn't care. The issue was, the company had very limited parking space near its buildings. Since close parking was so scarce, it was limited to managers and the handicapped (redundant, I know). Peons had to walk from rented lots a few blocks away. Most times, it took about 30-45 minutes to walk from these lots, and they expected you to be there on time. I figured that 10-15 minutes was a reasonable walk from my car to desk, and if it took longer than that, it was company time. No one gave me a hard time about it, but then again, no one cared at that point either. :)
posted by Spoonman at 8:07 AM on August 3, 2006

What Spoonman said. You get paid portal to portal, by common business practice, unless there's a specific provision to the contrary.

If an employer needs, for their own business reasons, to delay the time between when you arrive at their door, and when you can actually sit down and get to work, then *the employer* is being petty if they try to screw you out of getting paid for that, particular if it adds up, as it does here, to almost an hour a week.
posted by baylink at 8:16 AM on August 3, 2006

You're right, and that should go both ways. If employees hit their desks 5 minutes later than the norm, and leave 5 minutes earlier, there should be no penalty

You'd lose if they really started watching you every minute of day, docking time for taking personal calls, chatting with coworkers etc. Focussing on this 5 minutes is to float a lie that you're 100% productive the rest of the time.

Anyway the question is rhetorical. A more practical question might be, unless you're a union leader looking for ammo or something: 'Should I continue working for my current employer'. Up to you, personally I'd think it exceptinally contrarian to give up a good job over something like this. Something to tell the grandkids about: 'in ought-6 I walked off that job, stuck to my principles I did.'
posted by scheptech at 8:31 AM on August 3, 2006

There are two ways that spring to mind where I think it would be counted as hours worked in UK law - in the case of either minimum wage level or european working time directive (maximum hours workable). If you are on the minimum wage and a mandatory company process add to the time worked without increasing your wages and therefore pushing you under the minimum wage you could report the company - similarly if it pushed you over the 48 hour week (I think its 48...) without consent.

However, these are both unlikely. If you've got a trade union they might be well placed to riase the issue - otherwise you have limited options. I guess if your contract specifies the number of hours or the hourly rate receieved you could try and sue them for the extra - but I can't imagine this being a great way to enhance one's career prospects. IANAL!
posted by prentiz at 8:53 AM on August 3, 2006

This is the problem in the corporate world. All of the higher-ups have forgotten this arrangement, and just seem to think we'll take any level of abuse simply because they think we should be "grateful" we have a job.

Seriously? You've got to be kidding me. Five minutes of time bracketing the day is "abuse." I think you've just made my "juvenile and stupid" point for me.

I absolutely agree with scheptech: You'd lose if they really started watching you every minute of day, docking time for taking personal calls, chatting with coworkers etc. Focussing on this 5 minutes is to float a lie that you're 100% productive the rest of the time.

Which is why I feel like if someone came to me with this complaint I would be fairly leery of their promotion-- to me they would seem like a clockwatcher, the least productive type of employee.

As I said previously, though, and prentiz reiterated, if you're an hourly worker of some kind, it's a different story.

And for the record, it may be different in the UK, but I don't pay my employees for 40 hours a week. I pay them for a certain amount of productivity. That's why they feel perfectly free to bring their dogs to work, pop out and visit a friend's baby, email around funny websites (including to me)-- because they know that as long as they get their work done that's all cool with me. But if one of them gave me a speech like Spoonman's I would be perfectly content to change that policy to ensure that every single minute of their day was monitored.
posted by miss tea at 9:15 AM on August 3, 2006

Leud, are you the only one that is questioning the validity of this arrangement or are there others?

I ask not to be judgemental, but if it's something that you've all already bitched about around the water cooler, maybe something can be done. From a managerial perspective, if one person came to me with this situation, I would agree with the others in regards to the clock watching, etc (though I do understand the opposite perspective). But if a few employees came to me and said, "Look, we understand that there needs to be heightened security, but we're having trouble getting in here on time, is there something we can do or a compromise we can come to?" I'd be more likely to listen (plus that approach is much less confrontational than "you're taking my 10 minutes!"). This is not to say that you need to create a force and get everyone fired up to effect change, but if you already KNOW that you're not the only one upset by this, you may have more of a leg to stand on.
posted by ml98tu at 9:27 AM on August 3, 2006

Miss Tea, you have to admit that being paid for productivity is not the case in most corporate environments. When I worked for a boss like you, I didn't really watch the clock because it didn't matter: I could work & live my life. But in a place where it matters most that you are there forty hours a week and expect you to use personal time to go to the doctor, then being more picky about your time makes sense.
posted by dame at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2006

Check your contract. If they're sneaky, they'll have written something like "you will work whatever hours are required to fulfill your job description, which will not be less than 37.5 hours per week. Overtime will not be compensated for." Most UK contracts are worded something like that nowadays. If it is, you can't complain. But I agree that it ought to come out of company time. Trouble is, company time is an elastic sneaky beast that keeps stretching.
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2006

In my opinion, it's just part of the job. Sorry.
Every winter I'm a snowboarding instructor. We're required to be at the ski area at 8:00 am (after an hour + drive) to get assigned a lesson. Then we sit and do nothing until the ski area opens at 9. If it's good, we snowboard until lessons at 10:30 and 1. We're only paid for the time we teach, even though we're required to show up 2 1/2 hours ahead of time. But I love it, and it's my job.
posted by Maia at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2006

I worked for a company whose lifts went out during the Great Lift Engineer Strike of '89. We had to climb a lot of stairs to get to the office and were specifically told to give ourselves ten minutes extra paid time at the start and end of every day.

Not quite the same thing, but clearly they made a distinction between "getting to the building itself" time and "getting to your actual workstation" time and felt it wasn't the employee's responsiblity to contribute their own time to make up for an added inconvenience.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:47 PM on August 3, 2006

I had a job where I'd been there for several months and never been late or absent. One day, I was exactly ONE MINUTE late clocking in, because I couldn't leave the house early due to not being able to get out of the bathroom. (I'll leave that to your imagination.)

I explained that to my supervisor, and I still got written up. For clocking in one minute late.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:51 AM on August 4, 2006

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