Breaks vs. Work Errands: When Should Your Employee be on the Clock?

10.18.22
Employee on a break

Should an employee clock out for a short break? What if they leave the office? Knowing the ins and outs of employee pay can be tricky, so today we’re tackling break times to help keep you in the know. 

Generally, nonexempt employees do not clock out when taking short breaks of 20 minutes or less at work. Occasionally, though, employees need to leave. When leaving the worksite for personal reasons or breaks, nonexempt employees must be off the clock. If running errands on behalf of the company for business purposes, the employee would remain clocked in.  

Liability when on the clock

Clocking out when leaving the office to handle personal matters shows that the worker is clearly on personal time. These records are critical in the event of a wage claim audit or if the worker is involved in an accident while away from the office. We recommend that companies consistently enforce this procedure and use progressive discipline for those who fail to comply. 

What to do

Here are some ways you can put this policy into place:

  • Create a written policy that requires employees to clock out for personal breaks if they’ll be off-premises. The policy should include disciplinary action for not complying. Any exceptions should be in writing. 
  • Have your employees sign a document confirming they read and acknowledge the company policy or handbook. Also, make it easily accessible for employees to review at any time. 
  • Be consistent in enforcing this policy, regardless of who violates the policy, when, or why.

For additional information or questions, work with your HR specialist. Don’t have a specialist? We do! Contact us today for all your HR, benefits, and payroll needs!

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