Paying for overtime employer didn’t request

Employees arriving early or staying late
By Colin Gibson
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/14/2012

Question: Are employers required to pay overtime when an employee shows up for work early or stays late without being asked to? Does overtime apply if the employee is in the workplace outside regular hours but not doing any actual work?

Answer: Employees often spend time at their workplaces outside their scheduled hours of work. This could be personal time, for example, waiting to be picked up after work or sitting in the lunch room during lunch breaks. Employees may also come in early or stay late to catch up on work or attend to special projects. This extra time is not always requested or approved by the employer. The risk employers face when employees attend at work outside their scheduled hours is the possible liability for paying overtime wages for hours the employer may not even have been aware of.

Under employment standards legislation across Canada, employees are entitled to be paid for performing “work.” In most jurisdictions, an employee will be considered to be working if the employee is on shift performing labour for the employer, or on call at a location that is under the control of the employer. In British Columbia, for example, the Employment Standards Act defines “work" as the labour or services an employee performs for an employer whether in the employee's residence or elsewhere, and states that an employee is deemed to be at work while on call at a location designated by the employer unless the designated location is the employee's residence.