Unpaid time in the workplace

Let’s break down a myth about what is work and what is not work – when do you need to be paid, and when do you not?

Opening early/ closing later –

Basically – As an employer, you are required to pay your staff for their time. If you expect them to arrive early to open up your business or stay late, you must pay them.

Whether it’s during or outside of their standard hours, if you require them to be there then it counts as time worked and it must be paid.

Training –

Basically – If an employee has to do training as part of their job, they have to be paid the right pay for those hours worked.

Employees also have to be paid the right pay for time spent in team meetings or opening and closing the business if their employer requires them to be there.





Do I get paid for opening and closing?


Can I be asked to come in 15 minutes early/ leave 15 minutes late to open and close the service? Should I be paid for that time?



Employees must be paid for all hours they dedicate to work, and this includes time spent opening or closing. For example, if an employee is required to be at work at 7.45 am to prepare for an 8 am opening, they need to be paid from 7.45 am.

Do I get paid for training and meetings?


Do employees need to be paid for time spent at meetings or training outside their paid work hours? For example, staff meetings where employees are not paid but are instead provided with a meal as compensation, or staff members attending weekend training or professional development sessions.


Employees are entitled to be paid for the time they are required to spend at any meeting or training. For those offered time in lieu, a log should be kept, to ensure these hours accrued are taken. Payment-in-kind (such as being “paid” with food or drink) is unlawful. Employees must be paid wages for all work performed.

Even the big business can get it wrong, as seen in the case of Aldi below.

Aldi to pay $10 million in unpaid wages after pre-shift tasks found to be work

Aldi have been directed to pay up to $10 million in unpaid wages to a western Sydney distribution centre in relation to workers who were required to clock on 15 minutes before the start of their paid shift to perform safety checks, collect and assess equipment, and transport stock to a central location. Employees could be exposed to disciplinary action where they repeatedly fail to compete these tasks before starting.

While Aldi maintained that workers had only been required to be ready to begin work at the beginning of their shifts, Judge Doug Humphreys held that there was a “clear implied direction that employees had to arrive early” to complete tasks that were “solely to the benefit of the employer”. The work was not considered to be a private activity because it did “not involve any activities that are for the benefit of the employee, such as storing personal effects, putting on uniforms or PPE”.

The Court found Aldi to be liable for an average of 10 minutes of unpaid work per worker since 2018.

Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees’ Association v Aldi Foods Pty Ltd [2022] FedCFamC2G 799 (30 September 2022)