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I work at a retail/department store chain based in New Zealand. Salespeople of this store are expected to arrive at work half an hour before the store opens to discuss sale prices and general administration issues. I noticed quite shortly after starting my employment at the store that I was not being paid for this half an hour.

I brought this to the attention of my manager who informed me that no one gets paid for this time, and that it is stated so in our Employment Contract. After discussing with other colleagues it became apparent to me that they did not consider this to be odd or unfair.

Am I wrong to think that this is not only unprofessional but also illegal? The fact that this is stated in our contract makes me reluctant to contact the companies HR department. How can I handle this problem without causing problems for my employment?

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Expectations of your working hours should be written into your employment agreement and are not necessarily related to the hours the store is open. If it is stated in your contract, then that is what you agreed to do -- and you are being paid to do it.

It seems unlikely there is a clause in your agreement that states "no one gets paid for this time". Is there? If there is, then you need to consider what you might want to do. Doing nothing is one option. Another would be to chat to a community law service (which is free).

There are some provisos around contracts: you are still entitled to at least the minimum wage based on the hours you actually work, and you are still entitled to special rates on public holidays. New Zealand employers can't "contract out" of these aspects of employment law.

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