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I started working in a retail store. We are scheduled to work for 30 minutes after the store closes to finish the closing procedures (such as turning off lights, locking doors etc). For example if the store closes to customers at 10PM, employees are scheduled to work until 10:30PM. Normally the closing procedures don't take a full 30 minutes and I was trained to leave as soon as they were finished.

My pay stub had fewer hours than expected. I believe it was because of the leaving slightly early. I asked the manager if we are paid per schedule or paid per clocking in and out and he answered clocking in/out.

Is this legal? Is it legal to count to the minute without rounding? It seems to me the employer agreed to provide me with an 8 hour shift, would it be within my rights to wait until the last minute to clock out even if the closing procedures were finished?

If I clocked in a few minutes early would they have to pay me for it?

Must they tell me how they round, for example round to the nearest 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc?

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  • "Must they tell me how they round?": They ought to tell you precisely how much time they're paying you for, and you should be able to calculate that from your hourly rate even if they don't tell you. Once you know how much time you've been paid for, it should be fairly easy to work out how they're rounding. " I was trained to leave as soon as they were finished": that's so they can save money on the payroll.
    – phoog
    Mar 24 at 2:58
  • What could possibly be wrong/illegal about paying per minute of work? Why would you expect to be paid for time you did not work, even if that is a few minutes?
    – Greendrake
    Apr 23 at 5:03
  • @Greendrake Employees cannot be reasonably expected to accept work elsewhere during the scheduled shift, it's not employee's fault that the employer fails to predict their business needs well. It's not wrong to be paid per minute or per second per se. But fortunately in more civilized jurisdictions (e.g. Switzerland and New Zealand), the employer is obligated to pay the whole scheduled shift. In others, including many in Canada, employers have more "freedom" but they still have to respect minimum hours laws. There are unfortunately also jurisdictions where the employee is treated arbitrarily.
    – xngtng
    Apr 23 at 9:07
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Is this legal? Is it legal to count to the minute without rounding?

Yes. It is legal as long as they comply with minimum wage laws. Usually it is not recommended because if they don't round they might be underpaying and subject to labour investigations, but they can do it properly and legally.

Must they tell me how they round, for example round to the nearest 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc?

You have a right to a proper wage statement. It must indicate the hours worked in a way that allow you to calculate your wage from the hourly rate. Note that they cannot round down your hours (an 11-minute interval must be paid for 11 minutes, 15 minutes or 20 minutes if they round to 1, 5 to 10 minutes).

Normally the closing procedures don't take a full 30 minutes and I was trained to leave as soon as they were finished.

It seems to me the employer agreed to provide me with an 8 hour shift, would it be within my rights to wait until the last minute to clock out even if the closing procedures were finished?

BC's minimum hours law is outlined here in the ESA Guide.

A shift in BC must be paid a minimum of two hours.

If you are scheduled for less than 8 hours and you report to work, the employer must pay you for 2 hours of work at minimum. If you work for over two hours, actual hours paid is enough. If you report to work at 8:30 pm, they would need to pay you at least until 10:30pm.

If you are scheduled for eight hours or more, 4-hour pay is the minimum unless there is an exceptional circumstance beyond the employer's control. If you are sent home early almost at the end of your 8-hour shift, you likely do not qualify.

Of course, if you requested to leave early, or if you are sent home because you are not able or fit to work (due to illness, alcohol, failure to follow safety instructions etc.), the employer does not have to pay. Whether clocking out because you are trained to do so counts as an request from yourself or your employer could be tricky to determine, but it is on the employer to prove it is a voluntary request. ESA Guide says

The employer must be able to show that the employee initiated the request to leave work early, and that the employee was not merely accommodating a request made by the employer.

It is not your responsibility to promptly leave early, so you can wait until the last minute if the employer doesn't ask you to leave. The employer however can send you home earlier.

Unfortunately, if you insist on taking the whole shift, you may face retaliation (e.g. scheduling you for less hours).

It would be probably the best for you to consult a lawyer or a union to see if regularly sending employees home early may be excessive for other reasons.

If you are already unionized, tell your steward and discuss an appropriate solution; many collective agreements for retail in BC contain additional provision regarding minimum shift pay (but usually do not require to be paid the whole hours scheduled). If not, well, you have something to think about, in any case many unions would be happy to provide labour advices even if you are not unionized.

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Yes

Employees must arrive ready to work the hours they are scheduled.

You are only entitled to payment for the time you were “ready to work”. If your employer chooses not to use you to do work, that’s up to them.

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  • So an employer could send an employee home early each day?
    – abc555
    Mar 24 at 9:40
  • @abc555 providing they paid them, they can tell their employees to post on Stack Exchange
    – Dale M
    Mar 24 at 10:37
  • 2
    @abc555 whether (and to what extent) an employer can avoid paying an employee for scheduled work time by sending the employee home depends on the contract and on the law of the jurisdiction in question. This answer does not seem to take Canadian or BC law into account; rather, it is based on general principles. Therefore you should take it with a grain of salt. Someone may post a more specific answer, but in any event you should not let the information you receive here discourage you from seeking advice from a BC employment lawyer.
    – phoog
    Mar 24 at 13:20

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