Definition of non-productive hours

Written by russell huebsch | 13/05/2017
Definition of non-productive hours
Reading while waiting for work is considered non-productive. (Image by, courtesy of Monica Arellano-Ongpin)

At work, not all time on the clock is spent in productive labour and is legally called nonproductive hours. The law still considers this to be work, however, and it can add up to a big expense for a business.


The Fair Labor Standards Act defines nonproductive work hours as time an employee spends waiting for an assignment, such as a receptionist doing a crossword while waiting for a phone call.


Despite the fact that the employee does not engage in "work" during this period, the employer must compensate the person for this time because they are still required to work when needed.


Not all nonproductive hours require compensation. Lunch breaks are not paid because the employee has no duties during this time. The same goes for on-call periods. Short breaks or rest periods are paid because they increase employee efficiency.


In some industries, nonproductive hours (including vacation) can make up a significant part of the payroll. Home remodelers, for example, average about 20 per cent nonproductive hours.

Expert Insight

Some employers make workers sign agreements that the employee shall not receive compensation, or only be paid at a reduced rate, during nonproductive time.

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