45+ Work Time Questions, Answered

What is work time, by law? What are the different types of employment? How much should you get paid for your work. Here are the answers to the 48 most popular questions about work time.

Time management technique time management techniques illustration

Work time Q&A

WHAT ARE BASIC WORK TIME DEFINITIONS AND STATISTICS?

WHAT COUNTS AS WORK TIME?

DO COMMUTES AND BUSINESS TRAVELS COUNT AS WORK TIME?

HOW DO YOU CALCULATE WORK TIME AND PAY?

WHAT IS THE MINIMUM TIME YOU’RE REQUIRED TO WORK?

WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM TIME YOU’RE REQUIRED TO WORK?

WHAT IS PAID TIME OFF?

WHAT ARE PART-TIME AND CASUAL WORK?

WHAT ARE UNSOCIAL HOURS?

HOW SHOULD YOU DEAL WITH SPECIFIC WORK SITUATIONS?

HOW DO YOU WORK WHILE IN SCHOOL?

WHAT IS VOLUNTEER WORK?

WHAT ARE BASIC WORK TIME DEFINITIONS AND STATISTICS?

01. What is work time? How is work time classified?

Work time involves the work hours you spend carrying out paid work for the business you’re employed in.

Standard working hours involve a predefined standard limit for the amount of working hours employees carry out per day, week, or month. These standard working hours are usually counted as 40 hours per week.

Overtime involves the time spent working past the standard working hours. It usually counts for all the work performed after 40 hours per week.

However, some US state laws cover the matter somewhat differently. For example, overtime work in California also counts for the first 8 hours of work performed on the 7th day of the week.

02. How is work time paid?

Standard working hours are usually compensated according to the standard wages that differ from employee to employee.

In this sense, standard wages may be:

When it comes to overtime, the Federal law (in the form of The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)) states that only employees who are not exempt from the FLSA are entitled to be compensated for overtime work.

Overtime for these non-exempt employees is usually paid 1.5 times their predefined standard hourly rates. So, if they’re paid $40 per hour for standard working hours, they’ll get paid $60 per each overtime hour.

Some states, however, cover the matter differently.

In California, you get overtime pay for the first 8 hours of work performed on the 7th day of the week. Moreover, all work performed beyond 12 hours per day on any day is paid double. The time spent working beyond 8 hours per day on the seventh day of the week is also paid double.

03. What is the minimum wage for 2019 and 2020?

The current federal minimum wage per hour in the US is $7.25. This figure was established in 2009 and has not changed since.

However, as much as 29 US states have a higher minimum wage than the federal average. Washington, California, and Massachusetts have the highest minimum wages at $12 per hour.

Even some US cities have a higher minimum wage than the one defined in their states. Washington D.C. has the highest minimum wage at $14 per hour.

In addition, as of January 1st, 2020, the minimum wage rate for employees working under federal contracts is slated to increase to $10.80 per hour.

04. How is work time counted for hourly workers?

Hourly employees get paid per hour worked. They are usually classified as non-exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

This means that all the time they spend working past their regular hours is counted as overtime.

This overtime needs to be compensated with 1.5 times more than their regular hourly rates for each overtime hour worked.

Moreover, the work schedules of hourly workers may be more flexible than that of salaried workers. They are paid by the hour, so there are usually no strict 9-to-5 rules they need to follow.

However, any hour they don’t spend working is NOT counted as work time, and they don’t get paid for it.

05. How is work time counted for salaried workers?

For salaried employees, it’s not about how many hours they work, it’s about getting the job done.

Their work time is usually less flexible than that of hourly employees. They are more likely to follow something close to the 9-to-5 routine.

For example, they may be required to arrive at the office at 8 a.m. and expected to leave at 4 p.m.

They are not paid by the hour, but by a fixed yearly salary. So, any hour they spend on non-work activities within their official work hours will still get compensated.

However, they are usually exempt by the FLSA from being compensated for overtime work. So, each hour they work past their regular work hours (e.g. after 4 p.m.) will go unpaid.

Read more about the differences between hourly and salary employment here

06. What are the average work hours per day?

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans work 8.8 hours per day on average.

However, according to the Gallup nation-wide poll of 2014, the majority of Americans work closer to 9.4 hours per day.

Still, the number of hours worked per day largely depends on the industry. For example, factory workers in America are more likely to work 12 hours per day, as much as 6 or 7 days a week.

07. What are the average work hours per week?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American works 44 hours per week.

However, the previously mentioned Gallup poll positions these numbers closer to 50 hours per week. Almost half of the full-time employed population in America works these hours.

Moreover, 1 in 5 works as much as 60 hours per week.

The official number of hours worked per week still comes down to the industry in question. Some people may work even longer hours.

For example, according to simple math, factory workers who work 12 hours per day sometimes work as much as 84 hours per week. However, other professions may also work 80+ hours per week.

08. What are the average work hours per month?

If we take the known weekly numbers (between 44 and 60 hours per week) and multiply them by the number of weeks per month, we get that the average American works somewhere between 176 and 240 hours per month.

If we take that factory workers in America work 12 hours per day, 6 or 7 days per week, we get a monthly estimate of as much as 336 hours.

09. When does the working day start, on average?

According to the Federal work start time law, employers are not obliged to count commuting time as work time.

Hence, the workday officially starts when employees take on their first task at the office (typically, when they arrive at the office). It officially ends when they stop working on their last task for the day (typically, when they leave for the day).

According to research, Americans start their workday at 7:55 a.m. on average - however, these numbers differ from state to state.

People from Hinesville, Georgia start working as early as 7:01 a.m., and people from New York City start their workday the latest - at 8:23 a.m. on average.

However, the number of companies who work flexible hours is on the rise. So, instead of working 9-to-5, people work flexible hours.

For example, they have a daily norm to fill (e.g. 8 hours per day), and, as long as they clock in that much per day, the exact times when they arrive at work and leave don’t matter.

10. How do shift hours work?

Some businesses have an 8-hour workday - other businesses require a longer workday.

Considering that no one can work 24/7, people employed in such businesses work in shifts.

According to the definition, shifts imply recurring time periods “in which different groups of workers do the same jobs in relay.”

People required to work in shifts are usually those employed at stores, gas stations, or restaurants. Moreover, doctors are also required to work in shifts.

We typically recognize 3 work shifts:

People working in shifts may be required to work in 8-hour, 10-hour or 12-hour shifts.

WHAT COUNTS AS WORK TIME?

11. Does on-call time count as work time?

People who are “on-call” aren’t strictly working... But, they have to wait at the office in case they are called to engage in active work that day.

In that sense, they are location-bound.

On the other hand, employees who are NOT required to stay on-premises, but merely to explain where others will be able to reach them are not working on-call.

According to the FLSA, “All on-call time is not hours worked.” However, some on-call time counts as hours worked and is compensated as such.

For example, doctors who are called in the hospital’s “on-call room” can sleep, eat, and do whatever they like while waiting to be called to actively work. However, they cannot leave the hospital until discharged.

Doctors are paid for this time, and this time counts towards their regular working shift.

Some other employers will also choose to compensate employees for on-call time. And, for the purpose of payment, this time will also be counted as regular hours, and not overtime.

12. Does waiting to be engaged count as work time? Does engaged to wait count as work time?

“Waiting to be engaged” and “Engaged to wait” are two separate notions:

For example, notifying your managers of your whereabouts so that they can contact you in case you need to take over an unplanned shift is “waiting to be engaged”.

For example, the previously mentioned doctors residing in “on-call rooms” are “engaged to wait”.

Let’s look at more examples.

Imagine a truck driver.

He or she is on duty while there’s cargo in the truck.

When the driver arrives at location and the truck is unloaded, the driver is no longer on duty. He or she is then “waiting to be engaged” for the next shipping job.

This time is not eligible for compensation, because the truck driver is free to provide personal contact information and then leave.

On the other hand, a truck driver who has arrived at location and needs to wait on location for the cargo to be unloaded is still on duty, i.e. “engaged to wait”.

This time is eligible for compensation because the truck driver is location-bound, for the benefit of the employer.

13. Do rest and meal periods count as work time?

The Federal law does not require that employees have lunch or coffee breaks. However, having breaks is a standard in most states, and some other laws and legal bodies do require these breaks.

According to the Federal law, when employers provide breaks (typically lasting from 5 to 20 minutes), they are required to provide compensation for this time - because these breaks still count as work time.

However, the same law DOES NOT require compensation for lunch breaks (typically lasting about 30 minutes) - because these breaks serve a different purpose than short breaks, and are thus NOT counted as work time.

Considering that lunches are not counted as work hours, they are also not included in the 40-hour workweek.

14. Do lectures, meetings, and training programs count as work time?

According to the FLSA law employers may provide the employees with the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars, and training programs. They may also be required to attend work meetings.

However, the question of whether these activities are considered work time is debatable. As a rule, lectures, meetings, and training programs do NOT count as work time if they are:

  1. Outside of the regular work hours
  2. Voluntarily performed
  3. Not related to the job position
  4. Not performed at the same time as an official work task

15. Does sick leave count as work time? What about vacations?

The Fair Labour Standards Act DOES NOT count sick leave and vacations as hours worked and DOES NOT require payment for this time.

However, these times may still be compensated in practice.

Depending on the level of seniority, employees are usually compensated from 60% to 100% of their regular pay during sick leave.

Executive Order 13706 mandates paid sick leave for the employees who are working on federal contracts.

And, although vacations are not mandated by law, as much as 90% of employees are provided with at least some time off. And, this time is usually paid.

16. Can other activities count as work time?

Other activities that count as work time fall under the state where the employee is “suffered or permitted to work”.

In other words, if the employer permits or allows you to work during the times you shouldn’t actually be working, this time still counts as work time.

For example, if you’re technically on sick leave, but your company requires you to answer some emails from home, this time still counts as work time.

Employees who need to be on duty in the official premisses for longer time periods will likely also have their sleep time counted as work time.

For example, firefighters and doctors need to work long shifts, but, if they are not currently engaged in active work, they are permitted to sleep in the hospital or fire station.

In that sense, they get paid for their sleep time.

DO COMMUTES AND BUSINESS TRAVELS COUNT AS WORK TIME?

17. What is commute time? Is commute time considered hours worked?

Commute time involves the time it takes you to travel from your place of residence, i.e. your home, to your place of work, i.e. your office.

Under the FLSA, commute time is NOT considered hours worked. Therefore, you don’t get paid for the time you spend commuting to work.

However, if your employer asks you to conduct a business task while traveling to/from your office (for example, you may be asked to pick up office supplies on your way to work), this commute time DOES count as work time.

Moreover, you’ll be entitled to get compensated for it.

18. What is travel time? Is travel time considered hours worked?

Your commutes involve travel to work, but your work may require more travel than just commutes.

You may have to travel for business purposes. In such a case, your travel time will once again count as a state where you’re “suffered or permitted” to work. And, under the FLSA, you are entitled to have such business travels covered.

These business travels usually involve traveling during work hours to a different location than the one you’re usually obliged to work at (typically, your company’s office).

However, different states may view the non-business activities you carry out while on business trips as not eligible to be paid.

For example, California laws do not oblige the employer to provide compensation for sight-seeing and similar activities.

19. How much do you get paid for travel time?

The FLSA requires that travel time be paid at least the minimum wage. However, travel time is usually paid according to the agreement between the employer and the employee and may be higher than the minimum wage.

Moreover, the employer may sometimes supply you with a fixed amount to cover your travel expenses. This is called a travel allowance.

You may use your travel allowance to cover accommodation, meals, and unexpected problems that arise during your business trip.

20. Does travel time count towards overtime?

According to the FLSA, travel time may count towards overtime, if it makes you accrue more than 40 hours per week because of it.

However, as previously mentioned, travel time counts as work time only if it’s tied to a request made by the employer.

Did your employer request you travel to the client’s company after work hours to negotiate the signing of a contract? It counts towards compensable overtime.

Did you spend 2 hours traveling back home after work? It does not count towards compensable overtime.

21. Do contractors get paid for travel time?

Contractors who charge by the hour may get a request to travel to a different city to carry out a business request. They are also entitled to be paid for that time.

22. Do employers have to pay for meals while traveling?

According to the Labor Code 2800 and Labor Code 2802, employers are expected to pay for all the necessary business-related travel expenses. And this includes meals.

23. How far can an employer make you travel?

Yes, your employer can make you travel for work, if he or she believes the said business trip is in the interest of the company and part of your job duties.

In that line, there is no limit to the distance you may need to travel.

Moreover, if you refuse to carry out the said business trip, your job position may be terminated.

24. Do you get paid to drive the company vehicle?

Sometimes, you may get to use the company vehicle.

If you use the company vehicle to commute to and from work, you are NOT entitled to get paid for this time.

However, if you use the company vehicle to travel for your business during work hours, you are entitled to get paid for this time.

25. Do employers have to pay for travel time to training?

It depends, usually on whether you’re entitled to get paid for the said training program or not.

If your training program takes place during work hours and is made compulsory by the company, you need to be compensated for the time you spend on it.

In addition, you’ll likely get paid for travel time too.

However, if your training program is not compulsory and it takes place outside of work hours, you're NOT entitled to be paid for this time.

You also won’t be paid for the travel time.

HOW DO YOU CALCULATE WORK TIME AND PAY?

26. How do I calculate my hours and pay?

As previously mentioned, your work hours include the predefined amount of hours you spend working for the benefit of your business.

Salaried employees get paid based on a fixed yearly amount. Their pay is not determined by the number of hours they work.

On the other hand, hourly employees do get paid based on the number of hours they put into their work.

For example, if you work 40 hours per week with an hourly rate of $50 per hour, you’ll get paid $2000 per week (40 hours X $50).

If you’re a non-exempt hourly employee who works 50 hours per week with an hourly rate of $50, you’ll get paid $2000 for your standard work hours (40 hours X $50 = $2000) + $750 for overtime (5 hours X $50 X 1.5).

Which is $2750 in total.

27. Is there an app to log in work hours?

Sure! For this purpose, you can try Clockify, our free time tracking software for teams where you can add an unlimited number of users.

With Clockify, you can:

All the time you track is synced in your Clockify web account, but you can also track time while on the go (for example, when traveling for business) with the help of the Clockify mobile apps.

Once you log in to your Clockify web account, you’ll be able to

For the best solution to tracking your work hours, you can define one rate for your standard work hours (e.g. $50) and create a separate project where you’ll track all your overtime hours at a 1.5 times higher rate (e.g. 1.5 X $50 = $75). (You can create your free Clockify web account here)

Clockify's time reports

WHAT IS THE MINIMUM TIME YOU’RE REQUIRED TO WORK?

28. What are the minimum work hours for full-time work?

According to the definition of full-time work, a workweek needs to last between 32 and 40 hours minimum to be considered full-time employment.

However, the IRS officially counts an average of 30 hours per week and 130 hours per month as full-time work.

In the same line, according to the California 4 hour minimum shift, employees who typically work 8 hours per day are entitled to compensation for 4 hours, even if they get sent home that day.

In the same vein, employees who are expected to log in to a website, call, or send a text to check whether they have a shift scheduled during a day, are also entitled to 4 hours’ worth of pay for that day.

However, there is no minimum time a shift is supposed to last. Employees can also schedule a 2-hour shift for an employee if they need to.

29. What is a compressed workweek?

A compressed workweek allows the employees to work the regular 32-40 number of hours per week - but, within a smaller number of workdays than usual.

For example, an employee may work 40 hours per week for 4 days a week, if he or she agrees to work in 10-hour shifts.

He or she may make any other arrangements in the number of days per week or hours per day - as long as the total number of hours per week falls within the prescribed norm for full-time.

WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM TIME YOU’RE REQUIRED TO WORK?

30. What are the maximum hours of work per day?

Officially, there is no maximum amount of hours employees are allowed to work according to the federal law - unless the worker is 15 years old or younger.

Not even the FLSA officially recognizes working more than 8 hours per day as overtime.

Instead, this act only recognizes overtime hours per week (more than 40).

Alaska and California are the only states that recognize any time past the regular 8 hours of work per day as overtime. However, even California legally recognizes and allows that employee may work more than 12 hours per day (and receive a double their pay rate for this time).

Although there are no wide-reaching federal laws that address the matter, some states somewhat regulate the number of hours spent working per day.

For example, in New York, an employer is obliged to pay an employee working more than 10 hours per day for one extra hour - but, this hour is paid at the minimum wage.

31. What are the maximum hours of work per week?

There are no federal laws that officially limit the number of hours employees can work per week. As previously mentioned, the FLSA recognizes all time worked past 40 hours per week as overtime for non-exempt employees.

But, there is no official limit to the overtime you can work per week.

However, there are state laws that somewhat limit the maximum time employees are allowed to work per week. But, no state law is absolute.

For example, in California, an employer cannot fire or discipline an employee if he or she refuses to work 72 hours per week.

WHAT IS PAID TIME OFF?

32. What is paid time off?

Paid time off (PTO) includes all the time you spend away from work, for your own personal interests, but with compensation.

In the private-sector, PTO usually refers to sick leave, personal leave, and vacation time.

In the public-sector, PTO usually refers to annual leave - which also consists of sick leave, personal leave, and vacation time.

33. How many PTO time is normal?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of paid time off per year in the US for people working in the private sector is 10 days.

This PTO time does not include paid holidays and sick leave.

However, this PTO time also only counts for employees who have worked a minimum of 1 year.

Moreover, many companies provide more PTO than that.

34. How to determine PTO amounts?

Despite the official average, PTO differs from company to company

This is probably because it’s up to the employer to decide on the amount of PTO he or she wants to provide to the employees (as PTO is not officially mandated by the FLSA).

The PTO amounts include the time provided for sick leave, vacation time, and other personal time - this time is based on the standard work hours per week.

For example, if you get 1 week for sick leave and 1 week for vacation time, you’ll get 2 weeks of PTO time. And, if you usually work a 40-hour workweek, that means 80 hours of PTO time per year.

35. Are 2 weeks paid vacation for 10 days or 14 days?

Unless your company’s PTO policy states otherwise, 2 weeks of paid vacation mean 10 days and not 14.

However, the time counted for vacations includes only the days you normally spend working, excluding weekends.

Here’s how 2 weeks of vacation really work.

If your last working day before the vacation is Friday, 25th October, and you’re scheduled to start working on Monday, 11th November, you officially have 10 work days off (officially counted as paid vacation time).

Plus, you also have 6 weekend days to enjoy (not officially counted as paid vacation time).

WHAT ARE PART-TIME AND CASUAL WORK?

36. What is part-time work? How many hours a day is part-time work?

A work arrangement is considered to be part-time if the employee works anywhere between 1 and 34 hours per week - at least according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, there are no laws and policies in the US that prescribe the exact number of hours part-timers work.

Technically, you could work 40 hours per week and still be considered part-time.

That’s because the definition of part-time work usually depends on your company and your industry.

Sometimes, you’ll be considered a part-time employer because you work less than the number of hours the employer considers full-time.

Other times, you’ll be considered a part-time employer because you’re working in a position the employer classifies as part-time.

You may also be considered part-time because your industry usually views your job position as part-time.

37. How do sick hours work for part-timers?

Sick hours are usually accrued from the number of work hours per week.

So, part-timers can qualify for sick leave if they work the appropriate number of hours. The number of sick leave hours they can use differs across states.

For example, in California, employees who work for at least 30 days per year are entitled to sick leave. Moreover, part-timers earn at least 1 hour they can use for sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

So, if you’ve worked 90 hours so far, you’re entitled to use 3 hours of sick leave somewhere in the future. As the number of total hours worked grows, so does the number of sick hours you can use.

On the other hand, in Arizona, all employees, including part-timers, are entitled to:

38. How much do part-timers get paid?

As an unofficial rule, part-time employees are more likely to be paid the minimum wage than full-time employees.

However, the exact amount depends on the employer, industry, and job position.

According to one research made by ZipRecruiter, the majority of all part-timers employed in the US (25%) make between $1,750 - $2,042 per month - which is less than the national average of $2,218 per month.

39. What is casual work? What is a casual shift?

Casual work refers to the type of employment where the number of hours and shifts per week is not determined in advance.

Moreover, the time the employee is expected to stay in the said position is also not predetermined.

The main difference between casual and part-time work is that part-timers can expect ongoing work, and casual workers can’t.

These positions are usually temporary or short-term. Also, they do not include benefits such as PTO.

As there are no preset rules in the number of hours casual employees work, there is no minimum or maximum number of required work hours per week.

You may need to work long hours in a busy week.

Or, you may have your expected hours cut on slower weeks.

Casual work may be the type of employment that is only requested on a certain day of the year.

For example, beach lifeguards over the summer or Santa Clauses over the winder are usually considered casual work.

WHAT ARE UNSOCIAL HOURS?

40. What are unsocial hours?

Unsocial hours is a British term that refers to the working hours that fall outside of the more traditional work-frame between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday.

In general, people who work unsocial hours work:

41. Do you get extra pay for unsocial hours?

In Britain, people get paid extra when they work unsocial hours.

For example, people working in the National Health Service will get anywhere between 30% and 49% more compared to their regular pay (depending on the pay band they belong to) for working on Saturdays or weekdays before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

Moreover, they’ll receive anywhere between 60% and 97% more compared to their regular pay (again, depending on the pay band they belong to) for working on Sundays or public holidays.

HOW SHOULD YOU DEAL WITH SPECIFIC WORK SITUATIONS?

42. Can I ask for an increase in work hours?

Sometimes, you’ll need to work extra hours in order to earn more money. But, you’ll first need to ask for extra work from your manager.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best that you ask for an increase in work hours after you’ve worked in your company for at least 6 months.

6 months is enough time for your manager to assess your worth as an employee and decide whether he or she wants to grant you more work hours.

First, be honest about why you want to work more hours. Explain that you need to cover some expenses in the future, such as the downpayment for a new car or tuition money for your daughter.

Then, analyze the situation in your company. Instead of suggesting random ideas you could actualize in the said extra hours, suggest solutions to fix existing problems.

43. Can I ask for a reduction in work hours?

Sometimes, you’ll want to work fewer hours at work. And, you’ll need to craft a good case if you want your manager and employer to agree with reducing your work hours.

When building your case consider and explain:

In any case, bear in mind that a reduction in work hours will likely trigger a reduction in pay - especially if you’re paid by the hour.

Moreover, if your number of work hours drops below 30 per week, you may lose certain benefits.

44. Can I refuse to work overtime?

According to the FLSA, an employer can require that you work overtime to carry out your job duties. And, he or she can fire or discipline you if you refuse.

HOW DO YOU WORK WHILE IN SCHOOL?

45. How many hours do college students work?

As much as 80% of students work while going to college - and they need to strike a balance between their studies and work arrangements. They’re usually engaged in part-time or casual work.

Most colleges recommend that students shouldn’t work more than 10 or 15 hours. However, almost half of them clock in 19 hours per week on average in their work arrangements.

46. How do summer internships work?

College students often look for internships during the summer - they can apply for unpaid or paid internships.

Paid interns are considered to be company employees, even if they are technically trainees.

They’re entitled to a minimum wage at the least - as well as overtime pay for those weeks when they work more than 40 hours per week.

On the other hand, unpaid interns are not considered to be company employees. They get no pay and have no hour requirements.

WHAT IS VOLUNTEER WORK?

47. What is volunteer work?

Volunteer work involves activities you perform willingly, but without pay.

According to statistics, volunteers donate about 50 hours of their time per year. Moreover, as much as 71% volunteer their time to only one organization.

People usually carry out volunteer work at animal rescue shelters, national parks, museums, but also political campaigns and retirement homes.

48. Why it’s useful to track volunteer work hours?

Although you won’t get paid for your volunteer work, you can still compensate for your donated time. At least in a way.

Volunteer work may help you get into your dream college - as it counts as an important extracurricular activity.

For working people, volunteer work can in some cases be tax-deductible.

So, it’s important that you track the time you spend volunteering - to have proof of your donated time.