What’s the rule for paying when employees clock in or out slightly before or after work?

Q. If my employees clock in before their starting time and clock out after their day is scheduled to end, am I required to pay them for that extra time?

A. While California employers aren’t required to have time clocks, they are required to keep accurate records of the time their employees work. If you choose to use a time clock, you must ensure that the timecards accurately reflect the time worked by each employee.

To that end, you should implement a policy stating that employees should avoid clocking in early or late, unless they have been authorized to work the extra time. If an employee inaccurately clocks in or out, have the worker and his or her supervisor sign a notation on the timecard establishing the correct time.

Obviously, employers have to be practical about enforcing this rule. Don’t be overly concerned about employees who clock in a few minutes early or late. Employers commonly record starting and stopping times to the nearest five minutes, or to the nearest one-tenth or one-quarter of an hour. Presumably, this arrangement averages out, so employees are fully compensated for all of the time they actually work.

For enforcement purposes, this practice of computing time will be accepted, provided it’s used in such a manner that won’t result, over a period of time, in a failure to compensate employees properly for all of the time they actually work.

If employees work outside their established schedule, you must pay them for the time worked, even if it wasn’t authorized. Never handle even repeat violations of this policy by withholding pay for the unauthorized work time. Instead, treat the problem as a disciplinary matter.