All time worked must be time paid.  But what about pre shift start duties?  When does the clock start ticking on the work shift, and what can be expected of an employee to do before, and after thier shift ends?  The answers to these questions should come easily to all fuel wholesale, transport and retail operators, as it should to all businesses, but mounting cases show that there is still some confusion.  Given the $1.5m personal fines for underpayments ushered in by the new wage theft laws, it is vital to understand these nuanced areas now.

‘You are required to be ready to work at the start of your shift’

A ‘Ready to Work’ direction is a common one, particularly in retail, but it is vital that employers understand the difference between ‘ready to work’ and ‘ready to serve customers’.

In a recent case Aldi has been ordered to backpay over 4,000 workers for work they were directed to do before their shift commenced.  The claim is in excess of $10 million and it highlights a series of very important lessons for fuel wholesalers and retailers.

“The Aldi case hinges around a fundamental question of what it means for an employee to be ‘ready to begin work’ at the shift time” explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.

“Aldi contended that the pre equipment use check and the need to move that equipment to the muster point each day did not constitute work tasks, but the case has found against them.  This leads naturally to the question…what is a work task, and what can be done before a shift starts?” said Elisha.

“The answer is that if the action is for the sole benefit of the employer…then it is a work task.  So while signing in (as long as it is not overly time consuming), stowing personal items and moving to workstation (as long as it is not overly far from entrance) are of equal benefit to the employee and the employer, tasks like pre equipment checks, moving equipment, or in the case of retail – counting cash, are all tasks that are exclusively for the benefit of the employer” continued Elisha.

“Counting cash trays is a question we often get asked, and the answer is really simple, that is a work task and the business can not expect the staff to do this before their paid time commences.  The same goes for opening the site, if the site is to be open and trading at 05:00 and it takes 15 minutes to get the site ready to trade, then the employee MUST be paid from 04:45, there is simply no confusion, it is very clear” added Elisha.

“Businesses that have electronic sign on in use also need to ensure they are implementing policies for rostered time and appropriate pre shift start arrival.  We have seen cases of staff presenting for work hours before they are rostered and receiving payment for these unapproved hours due to a lack of clarity on the sign in and out process and readiness requirements” added Elisha.

“The big message is that ‘ready to work’ means just that, ready to start working, which is not necessarily the same as ‘ready to start serving customers’ or ‘ready to start driving”, concludes Elisha.

Here to Help

This article is general in nature and covers things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. It is provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation.  ACAPMA Employment Professionals are available to assist ACAPMA members via ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $860inc GST per year for a single site and valuable with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts.  Visit:   to learn more or to apply for ACAPMA membership.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM & IR)
Executive Manager for Employment and Compliance