10-Minute Rule – Ready, Set & Go! Understanding Prep Time on the Workfloor
In today’s fast-paced world, every minute counts in the work environment. Customers are standing at the store’s doorsteps waiting to get in and complete their purchases, or they are at the counter or on the phone and expect attention. An employer has to have his team ready to go at the shot of the starting signal. This takes planning and scheduling. One concept that many employers have used is the concept of “prep time.” Sometimes you can find this defined in the rules and regulations of the company, in the employment agreement, or given as verbal instruction at the onset of employment. Prep time refers to an employee getting prepared for and ready for work before her scheduled shift officially begins so that she is prepared to perform the work or attend to customers as soon as her official work time begins.
This week’s LEGAL column aims to highlight some relevant legal aspects of prep time and its implications. We will explore real-life cases to illustrate how prep time doesn’t work and dispel common misconceptions. Ready?
Case 1: The Importance of Logging In
In this case (2021), a Call Center worker and his colleagues were required to arrive at work ten minutes before the start of their shift (08:50) . During this time, he was instructed to be at his workstation and login to ten different (software) programs before accessing the phone system so that he can start taking calls when his shifts start (09:00). Let’s call this the “10-minute rule” or “Prep Time”. All was hunky dory until one day; things went South. He filed a lawsuit against his employer. In the case, he claimed that he was entitled to get paid for every time he had complied with the 10-minute rule, and he claimed retroactively pay with interest going back five years. The court ruled in his favor. In short, the court determined that pre-time = working time. He won the case, and later the Appellate Court confirmed the decision.
Case 2: No Grounds for Termination
In another case (2020), an employee failed to comply with the requirement to be present ten minutes before the start of her shift. The employer terminated the employment for an urgent reason because the employee failed to show up 10 minutes before the start of his shift. The employee filed a lawsuit and won. The court considered that the employee was not being paid to be at work 10 minutes before the start of his shift and thus ruled that arriving “late” for the prep time didn’t constitute a valid reason for an urgent dismissal. I am surprised this is even relevant in 20020 since around 2008-2009, we already had a similar decision in a local case.
The flip side
There is also another side to the prep time requirement that isn’t allowed. We also find that an employee shows up to work on time but won’t be ready to start her work at the scheduled time. Why, you ask? Because she hit the snooze button one too many times and didn’t have time to:
- have breakfast;
- fix her hair or her makeup, or
- read the headlines of 24ora.
Her solution is that she is at work at the scheduled start time but will first sit down and have a meal, read the headlines, tie her hair down, fix her makeup, and then be ready for work 20 minutes after her scheduled start time. I’d say that our lady friend should not be entitled to pay for those 20 minutes that she is not ready, willing, and able to work as “no work, no pay” seems to be in order as long as the starting times are recorded and not only the arrival time, a claim for the not worked time. What is good for the goose is good for the gander!
Prep time implications
Employers must understand that prep time is integral to an employee’s workday. If employers require employees to arrive earlier to prepare for work adequately, such extra time should be recognized as work time, and the employee needs to get paid for that. Failing to compensate employees for prep time undermines their rights, exposes the employer to risk, and contributes to an inequitable work environment. On the other hand, employees that misuse company time by using company time as personal time undermine the employer’s rights, expose the employee to risk, and create an inequitable work environment.
Prep time holds significant legal implications for both employers and employees. Employers must recognize and compensate employees for the time spent preparing for work, as it directly contributes to their ability to perform their duties effectively. Minor infractions related to prep time should not be used as grounds for termination. Striking a fair balance between employer expectations and employee rights is crucial for fostering a healthy and productive work environment.
Let’s end on a lighthearted note with a joke to lighten the mood:
1 Why did the employee bring a ladder to work?
2 Because they wanted to climb the corporate ladder…literally!
Remember, a little laughter goes a long way in creating a positive and harmonious work environment. So, let’s value and compensate employees for their prep time and stop wasting company time while keeping the workplace enjoyable.
Stay tuned for more legal insights and practical advice in my next column. Until then, keep calm, work smart, and don’t forget to enjoy the little moments!
Disclaimer: The joke included in this article are meant for humor and entertainment purposes only.