work time questions
GUIDE

The Answers to All the Work Time Questions You’ll Ever Have

Have questions about work hours, tracking time worked, or getting paid for the time you work? We’re here to help. Keep reading to get answers to the most common work time questions.

Disclaimer: While we did our best to answer every question accurately, none of the answers should be considered legal advice.

Table of contents

1) What is considered work time?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), work time (or hours worked) includes:

  • All the time an employee needs to be on duty or on the employer’s premises

  • Time spent commuting to work sites or on any job-related travel

  • Time spent in job-related training and meetings, as long as these are done during work hours

  • Any time an employee spends on performing work that benefits the employer, regardless of whether the work was authorized or not

2) How many hours is a day of work?

In the U.S., the standard workday is 8 hours. However, there are plenty of countries around the world where the average workday is shorter. Here are some examples:

  • Netherlands (6 hours/day)

  • Denmark (6.5 hours/day)

  • Sweden (7 hours a day)

3) Does 8 hours of work include lunch?

Most places in the U.S. don’t include lunch in an employee’s 8 hours of work.

If your employer gives you an hour to have a lunch break, it likely won’t be included in your weekly hours worked — nor will it be compensated.

4) What is the best work time?

While there doesn’t seem to be a specific number of hours employees should work to perform their best, it’s been shown that countries that have a shorter average workweek tend to have more productive workers.

Another reason for shortening employees’ work time is that working more than 55 hours per week has been associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

5) What are the expected work times for a full-time job?

Most employers expect employees to work between 35 to 40 hours a week in a full-time job. Schedules vary depending on the employer, but the most common schedules include working from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

6) What is the standard work time for part-time jobs?

There’s no legal definition of what constitutes part-time work. It usually involves working fewer than 35 hours per week.

7) What is the max number of hours a salaried employee can work?

There is no set maximum number of hours an employee can work under U.S. federal labor laws. In the UK and Canada, employees can work a maximum of 48 hours a week.

8) Can you put salaried employees on furlough?

In the U.S., an employer can furlough exempt employees. However, according to the FLSA, they still need to pay furloughed employees their full weekly salary if these employees complete the remaining work during a workweek.

Employers are not allowed to prorate exempt employees’ salaries based on a reduced work schedule.

9) Do people on salary get days off?

In the U.S., federal and state laws do not require employers to provide their employees with paid vacation or holidays.

European countries, on the other hand, have laws that mandate the minimum number of days of paid time off employers need to offer to employees.

10) Can a salaried employee refuse to work overtime?

An employee can refuse to work overtime, but they need to be aware that their employer has the right to terminate them because of it. In fact, most states in the U.S. are employment-at-will states and can terminate employees at any time without a reason.

11) What can you do during work time?


work time

Most employers expect you to focus on performing your job duties and complete the work you were assigned during work time. Depending on the employer, you might have a paid break you can take to have a meal or rest.

12) What should you not do during work time?

Taking care of personal tasks and using social media during work time is frowned upon by almost all employers. In general, if an activity isn’t a part of your job duties, you shouldn’t be doing it during work hours.

13) Do employees have to work a set number of hours each day or week?

Almost all employers request that their employees work a set number of hours each day or week. The specific number of hours required depends on the type of job and the employer.

For instance, someone working in the same role as you at a different company could have very different hours.

14) How many hours is too much work?

While most jobs require employees to work 40 hours per week, a lot of people put in more hours than that every week. However, research has shown that working more than 55 hours per week is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

15) Is it legal to work 60 hours a week on salary?

In the U.S., the FLSA doesn’t set a limit on how many hours per day or week employees can work. In other words, an employer can request that employees work 60 or more hours a week.

If an employee is exempt from FLSA’s overtime provisions (which most salaried workers are), then it’s legal for their employer to request that they work 60 hours a week without paying them premium overtime pay.

An employer can choose to pay a bonus to salaried employees who work overtime, but they aren’t required to do so.

16) What are the times for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift?

Shift times and schedules vary by occupation.

For example, security guards might be scheduled for 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM (first shift), 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM (second shift), or 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM (third shift).

17) What is a 4th shift?

Some jobs might require employees to work a “fourth shift”, which is usually reserved for any maintenance work that can’t be performed during a business’ operational hours and is done on weekends.

18) Who decides when work time starts and ends?

The employer sets the start and end times for a job. These are usually outlined in the employment contract and can only be varied if the contract allows for it.

Freelancers, independent contractors, and other self-employed talent might even make their own hours.

19) What happens if you’re late for a shift?

Being late for a shift can disrupt the workflow of an entire team. That’s why most jobs consider tardiness a serious offense. You’ll probably get a warning if you’re late for a shift. Repeat offenders are likely to get fired from their job.

20) Does training count as work hours?

meeting

Time spent in mandatory training counts as work hours and needs to be paid out accordingly. This includes any training for which:

  • An employee is led to believe that not attending it will impact their position at the company negatively

  • Disciplinary action will be taken against the employee if they don’t attend

Voluntary training done outside of work hours, on the other hand, isn’t considered time spent working.

21) Who keeps track of work hours?

Most businesses use time clocks or time tracking software to keep track of employees’ work hours.

22) What are the most common ways that people clock in and out?

Some of the most common ways employees clock in and out at work include using:

  • Punch card clocks – Employees insert a time card into a slot in the clock when they clock in and out.The clock then prints a time stamp on the card. This card can then be used as a timesheet or serve as a way to fill one out.

  • Biometric time clocks – These types of time clocks rely on one or more biometric attributes (such as a fingerprint or face) to clock employees in and out. Biometric time clocks help improve security and help eliminate buddy punching.

  • Geofencing technology – Involves setting up virtual geofences around job sites and clocking employees in and out automatically once they enter or leave a job site.

  • Time tracking softwareTime tracking tools like Hubstaff can be set up to start and stop tracking employees’ time automatically. Employees can also do it manually when needed.

23) How is time off tracked?

Most businesses use spreadsheets or dedicated HR and time tracking software to track employee time off. This balance is usually recorded in hours and appears on most pay stubs.

24) How are breaks tracked?

A lot of businesses don’t track employee breaks, but this can lead to legal liability. Businesses that track employee breaks do so manually by noting break times on employees’ timesheets or automatically using time tracking software.

25) How are work hours calculated?

To calculate your average weekly work hours, add up all your work hours over a reference period (e.g., four weeks), and then divide it by the number of weeks in the reference period.

26) How can employers know if someone doesn’t show up for their shift?

Most businesses that employ shift workers use an attendance tracking system. This can be a manual punch clock, a spreadsheet, or automated attendance tracking software.

27) What is time theft?

Time theft occurs when an employee gets paid for time they haven’t worked. There are many different types of time theft, including:

  • Buddy punching – Involves employees clocking each other in or out to extend their shift time regardless of arriving late or leaving early.

  • Timesheet fraud – Altering timesheets to get paid for hours one didn’t work.

  • Break abuse – Intentionally taking very long breaks to avoid working.

28) Can you get fired or fire someone for lying about work hours?

lying about work hours

Yes. An employer can fire an at-will employee for any non-discriminatory reason. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, these types of discrimination are prohibited by law:

  • Age

  • Disability

  • National origin

  • Pregnancy

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity

29) How do you get paid for work time?

The most common way U.S. companies pay their employees is through direct deposit, which involves electronically transferring an employee’s paycheck to their bank account.

Remote companies might also use payment solutions such as PayPal, Wise, or Payoneer to pay their employees.

30) How are salaried and hourly employees different when it comes to work hours?

Salaried employees get paid a fixed wage, but they’re not entitled to premium overtime pay. The FLSA requires hourly employees to get paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour worked beyond 40 hours a week.

31) Is it better to get paid hourly or be salaried?

how to get paid hourly

Unlike hourly workers, salaried employees can rely on steady paychecks and often get access to benefits packages and paid vacation time. They also usually have a higher income compared to hourly workers while doing the same work.

However, salaried employees aren’t entitled to overtime pay. Hourly workers, on the other hand, must be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour worked beyond 40 hours per week.

32) How do employers know work hours are accurate before paying employees?

At most companies, there’s a person who’s responsible for reviewing and approving employee timesheets. However, employers that rely on manually filled out timesheets have no way of knowing if an employee’s timesheet is completely accurate.

This can be solved by using time tracking software that can track employees’ time and generate accurate timesheets automatically.

33) Can you work part-time and get unemployment benefits?

In most states, you’re eligible to claim unemployment benefits if you’ve lost your full-time job and partially replaced your income with a part-time job. The same is true if your work hours have been reduced through no fault of your own.

To apply for unemployment benefits, go to your state’s unemployment department website.

Make sure you have all the documents required to file an application. These can vary by state but usually include a state ID, social security card, copies of your latest pay stubs, and proof of unemployment or underemployment (e.g., a letter of separation or a notice of reduced hours).

Go through the unemployment website’s application process and submit your claim.

Make sure to report your wages when collecting unemployment benefits if you work part-time. You can do this by logging into your state’s unemployment department website and reporting your weekly wages.

34) Can I work part-time while furloughed?

Technically, you can find another part-time job while furloughed. You might want to check with your current employer if they would mind you doing this, though.

35) Can I work while on leave?

Your employer can’t force you to work while you’re on leave. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does allow an employer to reach out to an employee on leave to clarify an issue, ask a question, or request a short update.

If your employer is requesting you to have any substantial work completed while you’re on leave, this is considered an interference of your FMLA rights.

FMLA doesn’t prohibit you from working a second job while on leave if that’s something you wish to do. However, if your employment contract with your primary employer prohibits this, you’re still bound by the terms of the contract while on leave.

36) What is the EU Work Time Directive?

The EU Working Time Directive is a set of regulations that businesses operating in the European Union must comply with. The Working Time Directive sets rules for:

  • Weekly work hours – The average working time over a seven-day period can’t exceed 48 hours. This includes overtime.

  • Daily rest – Employees need to get at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest every day. They’re also entitled to 24 hours of uninterrupted rest for every seven-day period.

  • Night work – Night workers shouldn’t be required to work more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. They’re also entitled to free periodical health assessments.

  • Rest breaks – Employers need to make sure to provide a daily rest break to employees that work for more than six hours a day.

  • Annual leave – Employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid leave every year.

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37) What is the standard work time in the U.S.?

Most Americans work an 8-hour workday. Schedules vary, but the traditional business hours in the U.S. are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

38) What are the working hours in Canada?

The standard working hours in Canada are 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. Schedules vary depending on the employer and the specific job in question.

39) What is classed as working time in the UK?

Working time is any period during which an employee is performing work for the employer. It includes job-specific training but not lunch breaks, commute time, or on-call time.

40) What is the standard work time in Europe?

The standard work time in Europe is between 35 to 40 hours per week.

41) What is the standard work time in Asia?

The standard work time in Asia is 8 hours a day or 40 hours per week. However, in countries like Japan and China, it’s not uncommon for workers to work as much as 75 hours per week.

42) Are work breaks considered part of work time?

Yes. While U.S. employers aren’t required to offer breaks, these are counted as compensable work time when offered. Learn more about employee break laws and how to comply here.

43) Can you take a lunch break during work time?

Some states require employers to provide meal breaks, while others don’t. In states where meal breaks are required, employees that work for more than five or six hours at a time need to be given at least 30 minutes to eat.

44) How are break rules set?

Employers are free to set their own rules regarding work breaks. Federal law only mandates that when breaks are offered, they need to be paid and included in work time

45) Can you ask about work hours during an interview?

Yes. In general, you should ask any questions you deem necessary to decide whether a particular job is a good fit for you.

46) What are the most productive hours of the workday?

The most productive hours of the workday will be different for everyone. Some people are more productive in the morning, while others work better later in the day.

If you're more of a morning person, for example, it might take you four hours to do the same amount of work in the afternoon compared to two hours in the morning.

47) Do clients need to see a breakdown for work hours in invoices?

This will depend on the type of work you do and the types of clients you work with. In most cases, you probably won’t need to provide a breakdown of work hours in invoices. Keep in mind that some clients might specifically request this.

48) How can I work with time management best practices?

There are a number of techniques you can use to manage your time better, including:

  • Time blockingBlock out time on your calendar and dedicate each block to a specific activity. This will help you visualize your entire work schedule and help you organize your time more effectively.

  • The Pomodoro technique – Involves using a timer to work in focused 25-minute bursts with a 5-minute break after each session.

  • The Eisenhower Matrix – Divide your tasks into four categories:

    • Urgent and important – Do these tasks immediately.

    • Important but not urgent – Schedule these tasks for later.

    • Urgent but not important – Delegate these tasks to someone else.

    • Neither urgent nor important – Consider removing these tasks from your to-do list altogether.

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