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I am doing work through a small staffing agency. I am working for a particular client for about 2 months. The owner of the agency is really nice but I'm getting frustrated with how frequently he changes the work schedule (both after it has come out, and after I report for work).

Some of the shifts I am scheduled for are only 3 hours long. On top of that, we are sometimes sent home early. This is because it's a slow day and there isn't enough work and the client requests it.

However, the owner of the staffing agency also told me to invoice for the scheduled hours, not the hours worked. So this means if we get sent home 30 minutes early we would still get paid for those 30 minutes.

But today I was scheduled for only 3 hours and after 2 hours the owner of the agency called and said the client said it's not busy enough and either me or my coworker had to leave (i.e. they only needed one person to stay).

I was considering going home early and just invoicing the full time, since this seems to be what he had said, but if he's telling me to go home an hour early I can't honestly think that he's expecting me to invoice for it. I mean why not stay for the work if I'm getting paid for it?

I felt this really messed things up. If I made the commitment to come out for work I expect at least 3 hours. The law may even require this. I told my coworker my perspective. So she agreed to leave early. This still wasn't a great situation because my coworker had been scheduled for a longer shift than I was so this means I had to stay longer than I had planned to. So I had to either loose an hour or pickup 2 extra.

I was advised by a friend that this is management's problem for not forecasting properly. Instead of pointing blame or threatening legal action, what would be a good first step?

Should I call, text, or email the owner of the agency and say:

I would like to make sure we have an understanding. Even when it is slow and someone is told to leave an hour early, are we still supposed to invoice for the scheduled time? In general I would like to be paid for at least 3 hours if I'm coming out to a shift.

I submit an invoice to the staffing agency but am not sure if I'm considered an employee or contractor (it may be different what the owner claims vs. in the eyes of the law).

As an aside, even when I've worked as a full time employee I've been asked to go home early on days that aren't busy. I don't really find this ethical as I make a commitment to be on time and not leave early I think the company should reciprocate this.

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    Are you really complaining about being paid for not working? Nov 26, 2021 at 10:56
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    the owner of the staffing agency also told me to invoice for the scheduled hours, not the hours worked. - You've already been told how to handle this. Why is this a conundrum? Why are you having a problem? Your boss has told you to invoice for the hours scheduled, so if you work less than that, invoice for the hours scheduled. The business and payment relationship between the agency and the client isn't your concern.
    – joeqwerty
    Nov 26, 2021 at 16:05
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    "However, the owner of the staffing agency also told me to invoice for the scheduled hours, not the hours worked." - Do you have that in writing?
    – marcelm
    Nov 26, 2021 at 16:07
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    So you are not okay with leaving early and getting paid for it, but okay with staying and getting paid for doing nothing. Now suppose you worked remotely (from home), can they reasonably tell a difference between someone leaving early and staying (at home) doing nothing? You see a logical issue here? It means the two approaches are ethically equivalent. Nov 26, 2021 at 16:15
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    Is the real problem here “inability to listen to my boss and follow instructions,” because it seems like that to me…
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 26, 2021 at 17:04

2 Answers 2

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You boss directly told you to invoice for the hours scheduled. Assuming that works out and you do get paid, then there is no problem. You got paid for your time and your boss told you what to do in said time. "Go home" is just as good as any other work if you get paid your normal rate. Most people would find it preferable.

If you perceive a problem, it is up to you to find another job that will let you stay around and idle while there is nothing to do. Alternatively, find another client/agency combination, that can plan better and will actually need you to work for 3 hours when they pay you for 3 hours.

The law may even require this.

I'm sure there are laws that prevent employers paying their employees too little or too infrequently or too erratically, but I don't think Canada has a law against "unethical overpayment of employees", which you seem to imply.

If you want to make a difference, the next time the client lets you go early, tell them you are still required to charge for the full shift and ask if there is anything else around you could do. Maybe you can prepare something for tomorrow's shift, or maybe the basement needs to be swept or the inventory needs to be sorted, I don't know. Anything. If the client still cannot think of anything you could do with the time they know they paid for... be happy and enjoy your paid leisure time.

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    Your clients impression is not your problem, is it? Normally, you tell the staffing agency your hours and they invoice the client. You have no idea what deal they have. Maybe the client indeed does not pay the staffing agency when you don't work. As long as the staffing agency pays you for hours scheduled, that is really none of your business. In fact, it is the whole staffing agencies business model, otherwise the client would just employ you directly.
    – nvoigt
    Nov 26, 2021 at 8:08
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    I can't see a problem here, if OP just follows instructions. Lots of people send workers home if there's no action. Idle hands make light work for the devil as the old saying goes.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 26, 2021 at 12:34
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    I also know stores that send workers home they don't need, to not appear "empty".
    – nvoigt
    Nov 26, 2021 at 12:35
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    Sure, lots of valid reasons, I tell my workers to 'bugger off and go do something useful' or they eat everything they can find. I still pay them though.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 26, 2021 at 12:38
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    Concerning "The law may even require this" : in Québec, the minimum length of a shift is 3 hours. Ontario has a similar 3-hours rule. Don't know about the rest of Canada, work conditions are a provincial matter. cnesst.gouv.qc.ca/en/working-conditions/…
    – Nimloth
    Nov 26, 2021 at 16:16
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In addition to nvoight's excellent answer, I'd just like to point out that employees are often paid for being available to work, not just for time sitting at a keyboard, phone or widget making machine.

You view your remuneration as payment for being at work, your boss clearly doesn't. Your view that it is 'unethical' is mistaken. You are being paid to be sent home early if there is no work for you. It is part of your job to be sent home in this situation. Rather like an engineer being paid to be on-call to fix something out of hours, the payment is for the inconvenice to the engineer's private life.

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