I've been working at my UK company for 10 months. This hasn't been an issue in 10 months.

We have a sign-in book and a sign-in clock. The clock is wrong, and we all know it (it's 2 minutes fast I expect on purpose).

I have a start time of 9 am so I always get to work for around 8:58 (according to the sign-in clock. In reality 8:56). I sign in and go straight to my desk to work.

I recently got an email from my boss saying that I had a number of late starts. I had two in a month, 9:01. I thought fair enough I was late, although personally if I was in a managers position I wouldn't call someone up on 1 minute late twice in a month as it clearly isn't an issue. It's 1 minute. I always leave the office around 5:40-45 despite my end time being 5:30. But I understand I was late by 1 minute, so that's fine.

However, he also says he wants me to start getting in at 8:45. Now maybe it's just me being silly on principle but I don't understand why I have to be here at 8:45 if my start time is 9. Surely as long as I'm at my desk, ready to work for 9, then that's OK?

I just heard him having a conversation with another colleague, presumably about me. She was sticking up for me a little saying "yeah, but the sign-in clock is obviously wrong!" and he said "I don't care she should get in for 8:45".

So, what would you do? Suck it up and get in earlier? Or stick to getting in at 8:58?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 14:11
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    I only once have run into a clock-nazi manager. The problem was easily resolved on my end. I worked exactly to the clock. No staying late, no starting work early. Although, knowing that you are working for a clock-nazi then you should get in at least a few minutes before the start time, but do not start working until 9, unless you get to leave earlier for arriving earlier.
    – Dunk
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 15:59
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    Get in at 8:45, leave at 4:45.
    – nhgrif
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 12:22
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    What work is this? Is it crucial you are at your place at 9 sharp? (I had a job where we were expected to clock in 20 min before the shift starts, to make sure we are dressed and can report to the foreman at exact beginning of shift, but this time was paid. your case looks different but I don't understand it)
    – mart
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 13:27
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    if my boss reprimanded me over being late a minute, i would start looking for a new job promptly...
    – amphibient
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 23:04

11 Answers 11


Different companies have different rules and different levels of tolerance on this.

Companies who want you on the dot of your start, usually want you to be in, have had your chat with colleagues, made your coffee etc and BE READY to start work at your time (e.g. 9 am) which is why they are pushing you for 8:45. Although you signed in for 9, you probably weren't (although possibly not) doing your job until 10 past or so.

What I would say from 25 years+ in UK jobs, from retail and services to IT, as both an employee and a manager is that this never happens on its own. If the employer is picking you up on a couple of minutes (as opposed to 15-20 mins plus), there is something else in your work they are unhappy about.

Usually when this happens they start a process towards moving you out, and if you give them convenient reasons to do so by what they see as poor time keeping, you are making it easier to get rid of you (they don't care if their star player is late and leaves early as they get stuff done, but the person who is a pain point will get picked up on 2 mins late).

So talk to your manager now, and get feedback and see how you are generally doing, I'll bet there is something bigger (even if they haven't communicated it).

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    +1, though I'd like to add/change one thing: The employer is clearly unhappy about something, but it is not necessarily this employee's work. It might also be something unrelated to that person, or it might be upper management getting on their case about something...
    – Jenny D
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 12:55
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    Please note that this comment should have a big only if you're certain qualifier to it: If there is no reason your boss would want to fire you for any work-related incidents, this may be discrimination or unfair treatment that you should take up with HR. Again, big qualifier for 'only if you're certain', and after you try to address this with him directly.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 13:37
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    Sometimes it's the login system itself, too. Once had a job where the phones had internal clocks that would drift by a few minutes per day. You had to press the "time" button to reset the clock back to the server's time. Many times, you'd forget and end up clocking in more than five minutes early or one minute late. Both were time violations. After a few months there, they let me go with "28 time violations in a month." Seriously. It wasn't like I was slacking off...
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 13:52
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    CodesInChaos - if you're paid hourly, showing up early could trigger overtime pay. Depends on how slaved the management is to the timeclock. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 15:12
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    @JennyD Absolutely - but it's critical to discover whether the unhappiness is with the OP's work or something else asap. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 16:01

"We set out to measure what we value but too often only value what we measure"

It may be that the only area of your work where tangible numbers on your performance exist is this 'timekeeping book'. So, following the above principle, you and your colleagues will be vulnerable to heavy-handed 'management' in this area.

Likewise it may be that there is little hard data about your manager's performance as a supervisor - except for the 'timekeeping book'. So, given that this has not been an issue before, it may be that a senior manager has used this data (and therefore your timekeeping) to criticise him/her.

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    6.35 am. My eyes were hurt with your quote (I am browsing SO with the mobile version). Anyway, good answer
    – rpax
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 4:35
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    I've made the quote a sub-head instead - is that better @rpax? Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 7:48
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    @EleventhDoctor Far better :)
    – rpax
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 7:51

So, what would you do? Suck it up and get in earlier? Or stick to getting in at 8:58?

If I had been notified about being late twice in a month, and if I cared about the job, I'd get in early enough so that I had very little risk of being late again.

If that means I needed to target 8:45 to ensure I always punched in before 9:00, then that's what I would do.

You have learned that timeliness is very important to your boss. And you have learned that your boss will be watching you going forward, and checking when you clock in.

How you react to what you have learned is now up to you. You can take positive action and try as hard as possible never to be late again (or perhaps even be early to show your boss you care about your job), or you can continue to do what you have done so far (and perhaps demonstrate to your boss that you don't care).

You know which your boss would prefer, now you need to decide if this is a boss you want to continue working for.

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    Strictly speaking there's probably no such thing as "early enough so I was never late again". 8:45 gives you a certain confidence, but there can always be some unusual circumstances that delay you 16 minutes and that your employer refuses to accept as an excuse for lateness. But I still think this is the right answer: you need to not be even one minute late for the next few months. And if something unusual occurs, well, you might get fired, but there are some protections in the UK. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 11:51
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    15 minutes early is still 15 minutes too late imgur.com/vUuyGhf
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 14:41
  • Of course if his boss is remotely ethical he'll be paying him for the extra time every week. Of course there are a lot of really really scummy managers who are entirely willing to steal from their employees by requiring they work unpaid time so he probably won't see an extra cent.
    – Murphy
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 15:01
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    There's also a third option: Start looking for a job with a boss that isn't a jerk. (Let's face it: calling someone out for clocking in 1 minute late twice in a month when you know your clock is 2 minutes fast is being a jerk, no matter how you look at it.) Also, depending on local laws, demanding employees clock in 15 minutes prior to when you start paying them could well be illegal.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 19:03
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    Hmm. I usually agree with your answers, but this one doesn't sit right with me. It's not "care" or "not care": it's "stand up for yourself when potentially being bullied to give more of your time than is agreed in your employment". Remember, this isn't the US: we have actual agreements and contracts for our positions over here, as well as like rights and stuff :) Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 22:31

If this were me, I would respectfully request a meeting with my supervisor and bring up the start- and end-times as the main topic. During the conversation bring up the fact that the clock you all use is inaccurate, but it is what you use, both for the start and end times of your day.

Then I would ask how many hours a day you are expected to work. Let your supervisor tell you his expectations.

Finally, ask your supervisor to specify your start and end times.

So let's say that he says you are to work 8 hours, with lunch, so 8.5 hours. Your day should be 9 to 5:30. If he states that he expects you to work from 8:45 to 5:45, then you know his expectations.

Again, if this were me, I would very respectfully state that since those are your expectations of me, that "those are the hours I will work, however please realize that you are asking me to work an extra half hour per day unpaid."

Whether or not you choose to actually work the extra time, unpaid, is, in the end, up to you. You are free to quit, and he is free to fire you.

Please also realize that my answer is assuming you actually work all day long and don't spend a significant amount of time on facebook, texting, or surfing the Interwebz...

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    "he is free to fire you" - maybe. This is the UK, so unless that 1 minute is safety- or mission-critical, raising this kind of issue and them quitting or you firing them over it might turn out to be constructive or otherwise unfair dismissal. I can't diagnose a lawsuit from here of course, just making the point that in the UK employers aren't completely free to fire someone for any arbitrary reason. However, she's only been there 10 months, so as I understand the law she can be fired without cause provided there's no secret unlawful reason (and those are hard to prove) Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 9:24
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    Thanks for your comment. We don't actually use the same clock to clock out, we use the clock on our computers as the sign-in clock isn't near the office. So it does seem a little unfair. It's completely well known that the clock is 2 mins fast.
    – Katy
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 15:54
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    @Katy: I reckon that in any sane legal hearing, using different clocks for "in" and "out" that are intentionally set to different times would be the equivalent of just winding the clock backwards during the working day and then forwards again at night. i.e. blatantly fraudulent. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 17:17
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    "and he is free to fire you" From what I've read here, that's highly unlikely. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 22:32
  • By stating "and he is free to fire you", I will admit that being from an at will state in the US, I actually was thinking "he is free to fire you." I do realize, however, that different states and different countries have laws which limit the rights of the workers, and the rights of the employers. However, it is simply true, that if an employer wants to get rid of an employee, in the end, the employee is gone. There may be repercussions one way or the other, but the employee is no more.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 19:21

Note: You mention that your company has "a sign-in book and a sign-in clock". I'm not sure whether you mean the same thing as what I call a "time clock" here in the US - a device that electronically or mechanically records the time when you interact with it, thus preventing employees from misrepresenting their time - or simply that there is a clock that employees are expected to refer to when they write their start and end time in the book with a pen. If the latter, how has your boss determined you are a minute late? I'm sure most people wouldn't actually hand-write "9:01" into the book, unless they themselves felt that being a minute late was unacceptable.
That said, this answer is written assuming your company uses an automated time clock:

First, what are your company's documented regulations on timekeeping/attendance? Is there a specific policy that enumerates things such as "you are considered late if you clock in 1 minute after your scheduled start time" or "time clock punches are rounded to the nearest 6-minute interval for purposes of determining wages", etc.? You should know how your own time records measure against those policies. If no such documentation exists, that could be an issue in itself, as it leaves a lot of room for different treatment for individual employees, or by different managers.

Once you have this information, you also need to clarify with your boss whether he is asking you to arrive at 8:45 (because he believes that you currently arrive too late be clocked in in by 9), or if he wants you to change your scheduled start time to 8:45 (in which case you should be clocking in at 8:45 and getting paid for that time). It's most likely the former, but simply asking him this question will naturally lead into the next point...

Assuming you currently arrive at the office at 8:55, which gets you to the time clock at 8:56 (when it shows 8:58), and now your boss wants you to arrive at 8:45, but still start your shift at 9, find out what his expectations are of you during those extra ten minutes - to just stand around, waiting on the clock? If so, then you should get paid for that extra 10 minutes. If, on the other hand, he expects you to use that time to take off your coat, finish your coffee, and generally get yourself mentally and physically prepared to start work, then you should take 8:45 as a suggestion, but certainly do suck it up and get to the office at least a few minutes earlier than you do now.

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    I don't know about the UK, but generally in the US, employers can get in serious legal trouble for requiring or even encouraging employees to work off the clock, to the extent that most companies have policies explicitly prohibiting any work done during unpaid time. This is why I say that if your boss literally expects you to arrive and be ready for work at 8:45, and not be free to spend the time from then until 9:00 as you see fit, then you ought to be getting paid for it, as you have better things to do then just stand there waiting on the clock. Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 17:49
  • That sounds nice Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 22:33
  • In the uk, it depends on the industry, the company, the job itself etc, but expecting overtime is far from unheard of. My last job was in the fashion industry, and a lot of people wanted to work there, so they (~20 person company) would fire the lowest performer each month and replace them. It was not unusual for people to work 12 hour days trying to avoid this, and a lot of people cracked and quit... The company in question is gone now, but they lasted almost 3 years like this.
    – Benubird
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 7:24
  • @Benubird This is how I interpret that story (from the perspective of the business owner): "I let my toddler play outside all day without supervision. He lasted almost 3 years like this before he was hit by a truck."
    – bcrist
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 1:30
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    @bcrist Haha, yeah, that sounds about right! It's definitely bad practice, but unfortunately "bad" and "uncommon" don't always overlap. My point is, that there is no legal impediment to "forcing" overtime, and if you're applying to a lot of small/new businesses there's a good chance you'll encounter some with this attitude.
    – Benubird
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 9:10

I've been hit with this a few times by an ex-boss. My solution is as follows;

  • Arrive early and do any personal admin that you can at your desk until start time. Taxes/shopping/filtering junk email. Whatever you can get away with at work.
  • If you are booking time to a project, only book the time you actually work
  • If you arrive early and start working early, leave promptly. A job is a business transaction, don't give away freebies.
  • In the UK we generally don't have to bother with all that tax malarky. It's done for us. Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 22:34

I think you should talk to your boss about this, because this clearly isn't normal. If, according to your contract, work starts at 9am, then they can't force you to be there 15 minutes early.

It might also be that your boss simply doesn't know what you're doing and might feel like you're slacking off. I've worked with managers in the past who started complaining about my half-hour break in the afternoon, while my colleagues were hard at work. What they didn't know, however, was that I'd spent several hours the previous evening to get everything done in time. You should make clear to him that you're more than making up at the end of the day for that 1 minute you've been 'skipping' in the morning (what's a minute, really?).


I would respond with:

Are you revising my contract time then to be 8:45 to 5:15? If so, can we get that in writing so we are clear.

Then stop working longer. Obviously they want you to be punctual. Clock in at precisely 9:00 and out at precisely 5:30, don't keep staying late. Set an alarm on your computer or watch for a few minutes before. Gather your stuff and clock out precisely at 5:30.

If they try and reprimand you formally for the 1 minute late, inform HR, management, or the appropriate government agency of the clock discrepancy and ask that it be fixed, AND that you be paid for the extra 2 minutes you have worked every day for the X years while your at it. Of course take this part cautiously and with the caviot that you might be retaliated against or let go.


I would step back and look at the big picture. While you could fence with the boss over the details of the rules, and pay details, the bottom line in any job is, "Is the job worth it to you?" Maybe it is. It could be a stepping stone to something better, something specific. It may getting paid to learn new skills you need in the next job.

A boss nit-picking about the time, especially when your number of early minutes exceeds the late minute(s), is generally indicative of a team that is not enjoying their work, perhaps even dreading it. In the long run, that's not healthy for you or the team.

So to answer your question, you don't have to. It's really a matter of what you want in the big picture.


As per my experience, you should discuss this issue in detail with your boss and try to know that what he actually expected from you. Also discuss your view to your boss(including compensate late coming by stretching hours at evening). This might help you to get things done.

Discuss issue of clock time with your colleagues as they are also facing same issue. If they are agree with your point then you all should talk this thing with you boss and find a permanent solution of it.

After discussion, if you will not get any fruitful solution then I suggest that you should start finding a new dynamic job having open minded boss/manager.

Best Of Luck..


If you're in the mood you might ask whether you should arrive at 8:45 official time (which is the time that is usually "legally binding" for practically everything) or 8:45 bogus stamp clock time? Seriously, make clear that you "really" arrived oneminute early and as it is impossible for you to predict how wrong the stamp clock will be when you arrive in the morning (for example, will it just skew away by a few minutes in one direction or other over night? Or will it be properly adjusted when DST starts/ends?) any "repression" based on non-official time should be frowned upon.

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