Start or end of working hours

There are certain rules associated with the beginning and end of working hours. Does your employer require you to be at work an hour early or just 15 minutes early? Or, conversely, do you still have to be at the workplace at the end of your shift and leave a little later? What can the employer allow within the normal working conditions and what is already overtime? This is what we have focused on in our article.

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Chapters of the article

What is working time

To begin with, let’s talk about what working time actually is. It is the time during which the employee is required to perform work for the employer and the time during which the employee is at the workplace ready to perform work as directed by the employer. It is therefore also the time when you are at the workplace and the employer does not have work for you at the moment, although he is obliged to assign work to you.

The basic working time is 40 hours per week. There are exceptions where the hours of work are shorter, for example for workers in mines, but also in two-shift, three-shift or continuous operation.

When must an employee be prepared

The employer determines the start and end of working time. In doing so, the employee is obliged to start work at the beginning of the working time, i.e. he must not only be at the workplace but also be ready to do the work. Sometimes it is necessary, for example, for the employee to change into work clothes, move around the premises or take a shower. This time is not counted as working time.

Therefore, your employer may require you to come to work earlier just to be ready to work at the appointed time. For example, your employer cannot fine you for arriving late. If the employee is a genuine sinner and regularly arrives late to work, the employment relationship may eventually be terminated by notice for persistent minor breaches of the legal obligations relating to the work performed by the employee. However, in order to be terminated, the employee must be notified of the possibility of termination by letter of reprimand at least 6 months before the notice is served (12 months if he or she does not meet the requirements for proper performance of the job, which consist of unsatisfactory performance).

End of working time

The employee may leave work only after the end of working hours. For example, if he/she finishes at 17:00, he/she cannot leave at 16:59 according to the law. Of course, it also depends on the agreement with the employer. Some may be more benevolent, which may also be related to the nature of the operation. In some positions, it is not important that the employee be on time. However, in others this may be very essential, for example in a continuous operation, or in a position where serious harm or even danger to human life is imminent if the employee is absent, such as an air traffic controller.

Again, if you need to take a shower, change clothes or make any adjustments after your shift, this time will not count towards your working hours.

An hour early for work?

However, if your employer wants you to come to work an hour earlier than standard working hours the next day, this is classic overtime, which in this case is actually before working hours. For overtime, the employee is entitled to an additional payment of at least 25% of their average earnings. An employer can only order overtime work exceptionally for serious reasons and must comply with the rules laid down by law, which, among other things, determine the minimum rest period that an employee must have between shifts.

If the employer justifies this extra hour of working time by the aforementioned preparation for the shift and you know that you can do it in ten minutes, then the employer’s request is unjustified. It is therefore up to you whether you arrive at work 5, 10 or 20 minutes before the start of your shift; the important thing is that you can actually start work at that time, for example at 8:00. Even just one minute late can be assessed by the employer as a breach of work discipline.

Tip: Working hours may not be the first thing employees look at when choosing a job. However, it plays a very important role and every employee should find out in advance how the employer envisages working hours. We have written more details in our article.

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The rights of both the employee and the employer can be summarised as follows. As long as you are always at the workplace at the time set by your employer, you behave in accordance with the Labour Code and do not breach your obligations, your employer has no reason to take any action against you, send you letters of reproach or deny you pay.

If your employer asks you to start work 20 minutes before the official start of your shift, this is overtime work for which you are entitled to pay.

You can also tell your employer that if you are required to be at the workplace as early as ten minutes before the start of your shift, this is effectively an overtime order. Your employer should then give you proper remuneration for this overtime work.

Tip: Have you ever come across the term “working time pool”? If not, don’t look for anything complicated behind it. You can read what exactly is behind this phrase, how we record working time and what a timesheet looks like in our article.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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