I'm an hourly employee who works 40 hour weeks at a small office. Yesterday I left early (About 40 minutes) because I just wasn't being productive anymore.

As an hourly employee, I get paid based on exactly the time I worked. I do not have any expecially pressing tasks that I need to get done. If I work over 8 hours on another day to make up for this time, they will have to pay me overtime (time and a half). In addition, I start work later than everyone else because I have a 40 mile commute and I get to miss traffic that way. So I leave when no one else is still at work.

I know I should have probably discussed this with someone, but since no one was there I just left - without feeling bad, as I'm not being paid for this time. Does this reflect badly upon my work ethic?

  • As I said, no one was there at the time.
    – user48249
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 20:28

3 Answers 3


That totally depends on how your work and workplace is organized, and what your contract says.

  • There are places where it is expected that you leave early (and forego some pay) if there is no work to do, to save money to the employer.
  • There are places where you are supposed to do your 8 h (or whatever) anyway, and just find work for yourself (do busywork, help a colleague, sweep the floor, whatever).
  • There are places where being present is part of the job (such as anything related to customer service), where obviously you don't leave just because there is nothing to do at the moment.

You should talk to your manager at the earliest opportunity and ask how such situations should be handled. Any of the practices above are possible, or something else entirely, and it's your manager's job to decide which (within the limits of your contract, of course).

As to "reflecting badly upon work ethic" - that also depends on the attitude of your manager, but for a single occurence, in a situation that is unclear, I don't think most managers would hold it against you.

IF you ask how to handle this in the future, the two of you agree on a solution, and you follow it, I see no reason for the manager to dwell on earlier situations.


Really depends on the environment and manager.

If you aren't charging for the time you weren't on the job then I personally don't see a problem. However, some managers don't like to see when people aren't filling out the full 40. So you should discuss this with your manager directly.

Most overtime is paid when you exceed the hours for the time period and not on just a daily variance. For example, if you work more than 40 hours in a given week. You might want to investigate this a bit more to be sure that your overtime is paid based on per day hours vs per pay period hours.


Short answer: Yes, it was a mistake and can reflect poorly on you unless you redress OR if you don't charge for that time.

Reading your question, I get the impression that you are paid for a 40 hour week, on an hourly rate. So according to your contract, you need to be working the full 40 hours as that is what you are paid to do. I'm not sure if you have variations in your pay based on your hours, but I'd suggest you talk to your manager and tell them what happened. Perhaps they will agree to just sign off your timesheet and let you work it up in lieu without accruing the (unearned) overtime rate.

As someone who has spent most of her career working as an independent contractor, you need to ensure that you work the hours you charge. And you need to flag your current incident with your manager rather than hiding or ignoring it. That shows professionalism and an acknowledgement that you didn't meet your agreed conditions.

The bigger question is, where you not productive because you ran out of things to do, or because you didn't feel like doing the work you had allocated? If it's the former, then you need to talk to your manager to see if you can have other tasks. If it's the latter, then you should definitely talk about varying your chargeable hours based on actual time worked.

  • 2
    I think there is too little information to call this a mistake. In some workplaces leaving early is accepted or even encouraged. OP indicated they are "not being paid for this time", so presumably the real work time is properly stored for accounting , so there's no deception.
    – sleske
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 8:33

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