Errands while punched in

Our company has always made every attempt to allow for a suitable work/life balance for our employees, but our past policy required that our employees should not leave company property to run personal errands while punched in on the timeclock.  Previously, they could punch out and use a lunch or half-hour of flex time, but that once they left, they should not be punched in.  It's now been proposed by a member of senior managment that our employees should be allowed to leave as necessary (without having to worry about punching out or back in) to take a child to the doctor, pay a bill, etc. 

 First, this seems like it would lead to additional,  unwarranted OT, as they would be required under the newly proposed "make-up policy" to make up the time they missed (so if they missed an hour for an errand, stayed punched in, came back and worked an hour to make up the time, the last hour would potentially be time and a half). 

 Secondly, and more importantly, I've always thought that this leads to serious liability issues.  One, they would not be covered under our workers' compensation policy if they had an accident while doing things outside the scope of their regular employment duties.  And two, if they had an accident while still punched in, the victim of that accident could come back and expect the company to be legally responsible for any resulting damages. 

 Does anyone have thoughts on if my assumptions here are correct or completely off base?  I'd appreciate any feedback! 


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • What would concern me is that hourly employees have to be paid for time worked.  Once you let employees run errands and do nonwork business on company time, you're essentially paying them for nothing.  In additiona to the OT issue you mentioned, why ask for FMLA or other leave, if you can take care of such things while on the clock?

    If management is concerned about workers needing more time off, it should provide for longer lunches, more flex time, or more time off.  I would be wary of allowing workers to stay punched in while leaving the building to take care of personal business. 

  • Paying for nothing is usually a bad business proposition.  One could say you are buying loyalty and good will, but I think you are really just asking for abuse of the payroll budget.  It will lead to overtime, eventually.  Of course, you could get into saying that the hours paid while on errands were not hours worked but tracking that will be at least as burdensome as simply having them clock in and out and not being paid for their personal duties.

    The company is responsible for the acts of its employees.  It's going to be difficult, expensive, or both to explain to a judge and/or jury that your employee was not "really" your employee even though they were on the clock.  Liability issues, including medical liability under a lack of workers' comp would all be a concern.

    Does anybody really need any more reasons than "this is a bad business proposition that will lead to employee abuse" and "this could open us up to expensive liability issues"?

  • Many thanks for your input.  I wanted to get some opinions to see if I was simply not looking at the situation from all angles.  My other major concern is that when it is eventually absued, there will be no way to prove it, and could lead to knee-jerk discipline and/or termination decisions.  I can't imagine what those coaching sessions will be like when we ultimately told them to come and go as they please with no guidelines.  Looking down the road, there's no way to administer this policy fairly and equally while still keeping the best interests of business in mind. 

     We'll see how this goes, as it's already been announced to staff.  Thanks again!


  • Wow.  Now on top of possible OT claims, you may have discrimination claims if the discipline and termination are meted out without any guidelines.  I wish you luck with this and hope you can convince the powers that be to rescind this policy.

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