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Ask Our Specialist – Do I Need To Pay My Staff For “Set Up Time” Or “Pack Up Time”?

Published March 05, 2018 (last updated February 9, 2023) - Face2Face Field Service Manager
Supermarket Employee Writing Notes Set Up And Pack Up


I just hired a young worker in my business and I’ve told them they need to be at work 15 minutes before their shift starts, to prepare the shop and set up. Do I have to pay them for the “set up time” or, do they receive pay for “work time” only?

Our specialist says:

Yes, your employees are entitled to be paid for all time they are required to be at work – including time required to “set up” or “close down.”

Since “off the clock” work without pay is illegal, employees who file a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman may be able to recover up to seven years of back wages for unpaid hours. In some cases, the Award or agreement will specify overtime rates. So, as always, it’s important to check.

Make sure you pay employees for:

  • setting up before a shift
  • loading or warming up trucks
  • transferring equipment or preparing a worksite
  • cleaning up
  • finishing tasks that “should have” been completed during the shift
  • returning to another site to drop off equipment
  • undergoing training

Even the eager young worker who wishes to “go the extra mile” by working unpaid hours can later change his or her mind and request back pay or make a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman. Best practice is to exercise control over your employees’ work and prevent unpaid work from being requested or allowed. Take extra care to record keep all the hours your employees are at work, pay correctly and check if overtime rates apply.

If you have any curly workplace questions, ask a professional workplace relations specialist by calling the Employsure Advice Line on 1300 651 415 or email [email protected].

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