Some countries have laws that set exactly how much an employer can round shift start and finish times on a timesheet.

In Australia, no legislation deals directly with the process of timesheet rounding.  The Fair Work Act simply states that employees be paid in accordance with their employment terms (e.g. contract, award, enterprise agreement).  

But what if an employee presents to work before their scheduled time? Are they required to be paid for this time?

The real question in Australia is what constitutes “work” for the purpose of calculating worked hours.  Timesheets need to reflect the start and finish of worked hours only. Timesheet rounding can be applied to exclude time that the employee is not actually ‘at work’.

When is an employee ‘at work’ for the purpose of calculating the hours they work?

Usually it is obvious when an employee is ‘at work’ because they will be doing what they are paid to do. Confusion and disputes about whether an employee is ‘at work’ tend to arise at the beginning and conclusion of rostered shifts.  

A reasonable question for employers to ask is, “Did the employee need to be here now, to perform activities for my benefit, or are they here voluntarily?” If the employee is required to be present and performing activities for the employer’s benefit, they are most likely ‘at work’. If they are present voluntarily, they are most likely not ‘at work’.

Here are some examples:

Most likely ‘at work’

Most likely not ‘at work’

Completing formal sign in and fitness for work activities. Clocking in early just because the time clock is near the entry.
Putting on personal protective equipment. Showering and getting changed into a uniform after cycling to work.
A compulsory training session with lunch provided. Eating breakfast after going to the gym.
Toolbox meetings and shift debriefs. Water cooler conversations before the shift starts.  

 

Case Law Examples

In CFMMEU v Broadspectrum Australia Pty Ltd (2017), the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that compulsory training attended by an employee in what would otherwise have been overtime hours was work for the purposes of the relevant enterprise agreement.  The enterprise agreement did not define “work” or “training”. The FWC ruled that because the training was critical to the operations of the employer and was compulsory, it was work. 

In CFMMEU v Peabody Energy Australia PCI Mine Management Pty Ltd (2019), the FWC ruled that a 15-minute period prior to the commencement of a prestart meeting was work or time worked. During this period, the employees are transported via company vehicles from an administration building at the front of the mine to in-pit crib rooms to attend a pre-start meeting, with payment for employees commencing at 6am/pm.  The employer effectively required all employees rostered on a shift to be at the main administration building at 5:45am/pm to:

 

  • activate systems to test their fitness for work and record their attendance;
  • complete tasks preparatory to commencing operational work, such as filling water bottles, accessing lockers and collecting protective equipment; and
  • receive directions in relation to the work they would be performing on the shift.

 

The FWC ruled that once employees are directed to board a particular vehicle to travel from one part of the workplace to another part, they are working.

The Tanda Time Clock is a more advanced alternative to traditional attendance technology like fingerprint scanners or card swipe technology.  Using the Tanda Time Clock, front-line managers can correct worked time variances in real time to ensure staff are paid for their correct worked hours.  Sign up for a free 14-day trial account.

For more practical information about hours of work, and all other employment law topics, we recommend the Employment Law Handbook. Click here for a free trial.