Access To The Facility


From original questioner:


I was just hoping for an opinion or 2, maybe a lot more! Here is the situation.
We have a couple of guys that are here regularly by 4:30 am. Everyone knows it and therefore figures they can get in. Well the other day Joe had the day off and Mike was sick so they were not here early. Bill shows up at his usual time, (5:30, he has no key) and can't get in! he has to wait until 6 when someone comes and opens up. Bill thinks he should get paid that half hour because he had a "reasonable expectation" that he could get in. I say not clocked in not paid. What do you think?

From contributor Ch

I would pay Bill. Why should he and his family suffer a financial loss because of someone else's error?

It is the owner's responsibility to set the hours and have the work ready to go. It is the employee's responsibility to be there on time and ready to start work. Bill arrived at his "usual time" of 5:30. Bill fulfilled his part of the bargain.

By letting the crew members start at 5:30 instead of some later time you have set a strong precedent and expectation. You, as owner, have de facto set the rules in place that 5:30 AM is an acceptable starting time.

OK, so I am not a labor attorney. But, that is what I would do. Is 30 minutes of not paying someone who is ready to work worth destroying the professional working relationship you have with Bill? If you don't pay Bill, will he be more or less willing to be helpful in the future? How will the other employees think you are going to treat them after they hear what you did to Bill? You are dealing with a lot more than 30 minutes of pay.

To resolve many of these issues, simply put yourself in their situations. In this case, what if you were the employee depending on getting paid to feed your family? And, your boss did not have the building unlocked? What would you, as an employee, think is fair?

If you want to set new working hours rules in the future, then put them in writing and be sure everyone understands them. But, don't change the rules after the game has been played. Your employees are your most valuable asset. Treat them with respect at all times.

Wow. Glad I beat that one to death. Anyone else want to chime in? :-)

From contributor Al

Does Bill have a start time? If its 5:30 then you owe him, if its 6:00 am then you probably don't owe him but you surely need a rule about start times, breaks, lunch and when you can clock in early. If he thought he was supposed to start at 5:30 because he always starts at 5:30 then you owe him.

From contributor Jo

What does your employee manual say about start times?

From contributor Pa

I agree with Charles. You are risking a loss much larger than the 20 bucks you might have to shell out. Are you really that cheap?

From contributor Pa

This is a symptom of you not making your policies known.

If the rules of the company are not made known they are hard on the worker. It is counterintuitive. You would think fewer rules are easier on the worker, but that is not the case because it is fetters the worker, because they don't know what is expected of them.

Not to say that you want too many rules either.

Short answer have a schedule and who is responsible for opening up. Just pay him the money the animosity will cost you more that the diff. But do get your policies well known so next time it is not a question.

From contributor do

Pay the reliable employee or it will cost you.

From contributor sc

It is one half of one hour.
It's been an ongoing expectation.
Pay the guy.
Fix it to not happen again.

From contributor Da

We've finished up installations 20 minutes before the scheduled shift ends and I send the guys home but pay them for that 20 minutes they were scheduled to work, because I'm sure they need every dime. In return, I get guys who will volunteer to stay late or come in Saturdays when the work load gets heavy. Makes for a much nicer working environment.

From contributor To

Jeepers, I thought maybe someone would take my side! Thanks for all the responses. I should have mentioned that Bill was one of 3 people in the situation and he was the only one who made a fuss. Our policy is quite loose about start/stop times and I believe employees appreciate that. We are not cheap and after the comments received will pay the guy, (we were going to anyway) just the principle I wanted to address. Thanks, TomO

From contributor Da

I agree - pay the guy. You do not want to be known as a cheapskate.

Also, when you pay him, let him know it is because he is reliable and a valued member of the organization - you just lost sight of the forest or the trees or whatever. Then, you can call in the favor if/when needed. You can't expect them to go the extra mile for you if you won't do it for them. Set the example.

Save your high expectations for shop performance and efficiency and let the few bucks pass. Being tight on this could cost you a lot more in problems.

It is also true that your lack of a clear policy allowed this to happen. It is your shop, run it how you like, but be advised that lack of policy can let conflicts grow larger that they should. I like a low management approach, but it can backfire if there is a problem.

From contributor Je

Are you kidding me?? This is a complete no brainer. Someone shows up faithfully at 5:30 am to work and one day they can't get in. If you even questioned not paying me there would be a big problem.
I hope your relationships with your employees are much better than face value shows. Little things like this are what makes or breaks relationships and in turn makes or breaks businesses.
I say you pay him and apologize to him for not being there to let him in.
Why weren't you there to open the shop???

From contributor To

Our "official" hours are 7:30 to 4:30. We allow employees the ability to have flexible hours. It works to both of our advantages almost like having a second shift and the early birds get out early in the day. Yes, my bad for not having a stricter policy. Let me ask you this, say Bill decides that he wants to leave early so he shows up at 5 am thinking that of course Joe will be there, he always is. Joe is sick that day. Would you pay Bill while he is sitting in the parking lot?

From contributor Je

Sounds to me like you have a very unique situation. Who is in charge of all of these guys coming in at various hours?
I think you have to make some need a firm policy in place if you want to eliminate all of these possible scenarios. You've basically got a trust system which works less and less as more employees are involved.
How about this simple solution if you're going to be this flexible, yet inflexible on payment.....GET BILL A KEY! and a timeclock. You obviously trust these guys with your facility, machinery and materials. Why not a key?

From contributor Ch

Tom, you are treating the symptom instead of the problem. Why doesn't Bill have a key? Please keep reading...

Adding on to Jeff M's response, why not a cardkey system?

Yes, they are not cheap. Use a cardkey to both unlock the door and handle payroll. Even if the door is unlocked, they need to swipe to get paid. This combines a time-clock and door lock system in one.

You should also be able to control the hours the key works if you want to do so. So, if your rules are flexible working hours are from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM, the cardkey can be programmed to NOT allow access at 1:00 AM. Or, whatever policy you decide. Or, if you do allow 24 hour access, and someone is there at 1:00 AM, you should know who unlocked the building.

Paranoid about letting someone new have access to unlock the building? Make their cardkey not open the door, but use the payroll capability. If and when you decide to give them access you can tell the system to let their cardkey unlock the door.

Furthermore, if an employee leaves the company, you can immediately block their cardkey. This is a lot easier and less costly than rekeying the locks and giving everyone else new keys. If they lose a cardkey it can be immediately blocked. Then you can issue a new one.

Whether or not you choose to charge your employees for lost keys is your decision. You might want to have a policy that says the first lost key is free. After that each key will cost the employee X dollars. This should prevent abuse. The employees will better safeguard their cardkey if they have to pay for replacements out of their own pocket. (Someone know the legality of charging employees for lost keys?)

No, I do not sell cardkey systems. But I have used them at many different places over the years.

The cardkey system is just another possibility.

But, first, as others have said, you need to decide what your policy is, then let everyone know. Then, you must consistently follow and enforce the rules. Otherwise the informality will creep back in and more sticky situations will be in your future. Employees want known rules. It makes their life easier. It really does. And happy employees tend to produce better quality work more efficiently. Isn't that why we are all here?

OK. time for me to step off my soapbox, again.

From contributor Ad

The amount of time you've spent vexing over this issue has cost you more than the $10 you owe your employee. Stop wasting time, apologize to the guy for even questioning his integrity. I would feel insulted if I was the employee you are trying to screw out of 1/2 hr labor.

Likewise if you actually had the responsibility to open the doors at 8 and because of car trouble you got there at 10. You should pay your guys the 2 hours they were playing with themselves in the parking lot.

You effectively gave the responsibility to another employee to open the shop at a specific time. The employee that showed up on time should be commended and the other guy should have a sit down.

The little things with money piss people off. Don't ever make the mistake of saying its only $10. Your employees will dislike you if you nickel and dime them. Giving them a year end bonus does not make up for the numerous times throughout the year when you pull a cheapskate stunt. Starving your employees is not a sustainable business practice.

From contributor Ma

Flexible hours, in my opinion, are a nightmare waiting to happen. If a guy wants to start at 5:30 when your business opens at 7 you either accommodate that that fixed schedule with a dedicated employee (manager or supervisor) or you tell the employee that this is what time we start and this is what time we quit. This can be via a handbook or verbally in a small shop.

I cant count the times I have had stubborn employees or new hires tell "me" they are going to show up early tomorrow or work through lunch, because they want to leave early that day (or more commonly on friday).

The fist answer is "you" dont tell "me" when your going to show up and leave. You can feel free to "ask" me if its ok if you work through lunch and leave a half hour early but in no way, shape, or form, are you able to make that decision for yourself.

I wish more than anything that this sort of flexibility would work on mass but the simple fact of the matter is it creates an environment of inconsistency. Even an employee who has faithfully held to their hours can get into a situation where they begin to abuse the system. Other employees who get on a whim to get off early decide they want to come in early, then in the winter months they want to sleep an extra hour and change back.

Its a lose lose situation for me and I simply dont have the time, nor the desire, to have to track these floating schedules.

Our hours are our hours. Love it or leave it.

In your situation the problem here is your own doing. I would pay him THIS time. After that I would say you have one of two options:

1. Put him on the company schedule

2. Tell the two individuals with early access that if they are not going to be there they each must inform those who show up early (total nightmare).

Consistency is the key.

From contributor To

Thanks all, But Adam you're saying I should have a "sit-down" with a guy that calls in sick! Talk about harsh! And it never got to a question with the employee, as I said before I was planning on paying him but wanted some other thoughts. And Charles, Bill didn't want the "responsibility" of having a key!

Bill is getting paid.
Enough guys?

From contributor Ch

Fire 'em all! That'll show 'em!

From contributor Ch


I can understand Bill's position of not wanting the "responsibility" of having a key. Not having a key relieves an employee of a lot of potential liability. Like "who was in the shop last holiday weekend when $10,000 of inventory went missing?" Everyone with a key is now a suspect. I would not want that either if I had a choice.

Bottom line: pay him for the 1/2 hour. (You said you are already doing this. Good.) Then, take some of the comments from others that responded and figure out a new set of rules going forward. And, stick with the new rules.

Best of luck!

From contributor Er

If the same situation had occured at my shop, I would have paid him. I also would have filed it in my memory bank that this employee, whom I have treated well, would even bring up such a thing. Just as you all have chastised Tom for being so cheap, this particular employee is also being cheap, and petty. His employer allows him to set his own hours and there is nothing to indicate this employee isn't treated fairly in every other way. And he's going to sqauble over a one time miscommunication? That would bother me.

From contributor Ma


When you first posted this (I read it before anybody responded) I said to myself, pay the man.

Then you said that he was one of three and I said to myself, pay them all.

Then you add, “Bill didn't want the "responsibility" of having a key!” This changes everything for me. Bill does not get paid, but gets a talking to about “responsibility”. For instance, if he does not want the responsibility of the key, he is responsible to show up during regular business hours or be at the mercy of those who are more responsible.


From contributor Pa

I have been on both sides of that coin and unless you are just being a cheap A$$. It is not his fault. You pay him and be done with it. If you tell me to show up and 4:30 and You are not there I do expect to be paid from 4:30 when I showed up, no acceptable excuse on your part. Small shops just tend to act like small shops and usually are not a good place to work, probably why they are still small. Forget all the we are one big family crap when it comes down to making a dollar you ain't family. Go to work for a larger established company, do your job and get paid. They got larger because they had their sh-t together. You are C H E A P

From contributor Ad


I should have been more clear than sit down. What I ment was the sick employee should have told you that he wasn't going to be there to open the building. Then you could have either opened the building yourself or give Bill the heads up to not show up until later when you do show up.

At the end the day I worked with two different crews that had "flex" hours. It always ended up causing problems. It was always harder to organize the crew to work as a group, because they had different hours. Often communication was lacking so the guys showing up early were not always working up to their potential. Obviously the "flexi" thing is wide open to abuse. Minor abuses adds up over a year. You can easily be losing an 1+ hr per week per man with the comings and goings, even if they are punching a clock.

Obviously you got the point about paying your guy. The bigger issue here is a much greater problem in your shop hours. Do some basic math. Think best case scenario how much time is lost by my comments above. Then think worst case scenario. Average the two and this is close to how much time and money it costs. You are only doing "flexi" to make your employees happy and its not the normal way of doing business.

From contributor Ca

Paul Lowe,

The small shops tend to pay a lot more than the big shops. If you want to hide out during your work day a big shop is a great place to do it. If you want a union steward to protect you from consequences of your behavior you should also go to work for the big shop.

Money isn't everything. Sometimes all you really need from your work day is to not be held accountable and go home on time. Big shops are great for that.

From contributor D

Tom , did you say the guy did call in sick ?

If so why didn't you let the others in knowing he was sick ?

Your policy must work alright but it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure your facility is open for your employees .

Please pay them all

From contributor Gl

I only have 5 guys now and 4 have the keys to the building. First gets to work at 6am but I get to work at 4:30 so they never ever beat me to the shop. In my past life I had 156 employees and no one ever beat me to work. Pay him and get to work earlier so you can get some worms. I have coffee made and the lights all on when the boys get in. They work hard and have all been here for the last 30 years.

From contributor Ji

I used to have this problem of the person with the key showing up late. Solved the problem by buying an electronic lock for the door. Each employee has their own passcode to get in. I schedule the door lock only to let them in on days they are to work and 15 minutes before they usually start. What is also nice is that the door to the shop is always locked so no one will walk in on us. If you have a showroom for customers, you could put the lock on the back door. The lock was not cheap, about $600, but it is worth every penny in that I do not worry who has they key that day, who is going to open up when I am out of town, the key person has an accident on the way in, etc. This eliminates a lot of issues.

The lock is programmable so that each person has their own 6 digit code. It keeps track of the last 1000 punches so that I can tell when each person came in. I schedule it so that they can only come in during certain hours of certain days of the week. For example, my employees cannot access the building after 5 pm M-F, not at all on Sat & Sun and holidays. I can also remove their code when they no longer work for me. New hires don't get a code for at least the first month as I want to be sure that I want to keep them before giving them a code. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes to set up a code or to delete it.

By the way, my wife doesn't have a code to get into the shop as she is only worried about the paycheck coming out.