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Old 14.02.2016, 18:49
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being expected to work without being paid for it

Hi there,

I work in an Old peoples home and I do love the job, but I am frustrated with a few aspects of my employer.

We are supposed to start at 7 am to get the Speisesaal ready for the residents that are supposed to come from 7.30 am. On most days residents start coming from 7.15 am onwards, when we are not finished with our preparations yet. We have to cut bread and put it in bread baskets on the tables, set the tables for 30 people, butter and jam, boil water for tea, prepare plates with jogurt, birchermuesli and fruit for some etc, etc.

Now, I would say that 90% of my co workers start at 6.45 am, so they can get the job done in time. This time however, is not paid for. Nor do we get paid if we go over the time that we are supposed to be finished by. However, if we are finished 2 Min. before the allocated time, that gets deducted.

We, several team members, have brought this to the attention of our overall boss and have said it was not fair.
She in turn has said that 50% of our team manages in that half an hour that is allocated, so it is up to us to figure out how to get it done faster.

I have managed to do it in 30 Min at times (but only if the residents did not appear early), but it was under considerable stress and running around to get it done. I do not want the stress and do not want to frustrate the residents by not being ready in time, so I continue to start at 6.45 am, as do my co workers.

I understand that one of the reasons for not paying us the time we go over, is because they would have to pay the night rate before 7 am.

Surely it is not fair to expect workers to put in extra time without pay? I enjoy my work, but it really frustrates me that I am not paid for anywhere between 2-4 hours a week.

Are there no laws to prevent this? I am living on a minimum wage and that is ok, but that is part of the reason why it is so important to me to be paid for the time I put in. And ultimately, it is not fair!!

Would love to hear your feedback.

Many thanks
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Old 14.02.2016, 19:08
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

I can't help you with any legal advice.

But I must admit I can't understand why you and your colleagues are allowing the residents of the care home to 'cut into' your preparation time like this. If breakfast is supposed to be served from 7:30 am, then serve it from 7:30 am. If someone chooses to come down earlier, then they have to accept that things may not be ready.

I live in supported accommodation for people with psychiatric difficulties. Once a week, we have breakfast as a group (the rest of the time the residents help ourselves). The staff prepare the breakfast. It is served at 8:30 am. If I come down at 8:15 am, I have to wait 15 minutes for my breakfast. I don't expect the staff to rush around getting everything on the table early because I happen to be early.

Once I spent a week in an EMS, with mainly elderly residents (it was a short-term EMS). Breakfast was served at a certain time, and if we arrived early, we sat and waited.

I can appreciate that you want to give the residents a good service, and that for you this means providing them with breakfast straight away, but if the rules of the establishment state that breakfast is at 7:30 am, why not get together with your colleagues and agree that you will only serve breakfast from 7:30 am? If the residents come down early - make them wait!

If necessary, explain to the residents that you are only paid from 7:00 and that therefore you will not be starting work early. It may be that they are not aware of the problems they are causing you, and the extra (unpaid) hours you are putting in.

If the residents then start complaining to the management because they have to wait for breakfast, you may then find you are in a stronger position to argue to be paid earlier.

Or you may find the management backs you up and tells the residents they will have to wait until 7:30 am for their breakfast.

Or, the residents may start to do what the early-rising and hungry residents of this foyer do when we have communal breakfast - and start helping you out with the preparations.

Just my opinion of course, but I do think perhaps you're looking at the problem the wrong way up. Your employer isn't going to pay you any more money all the while you voluntarily arrive at work early and start work early. But if you 'work to rule' and refuse to serve breakfast before 7:30 am, then either everyone will accept this (as you are only doing what you're supposed to do), or the residents will complain, in which case your employer will have to work out how to keep you happy and the residents happy. Which may end up in you getting your extra pay.
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Old 14.02.2016, 19:11
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

My company expects employees to travel between work sites, during their lunch break, unpaid. Ok, we are not working, but nor are we getting a lunch break

Are they asking you to start at 6:45? If so you should be paid. If not, you should all come together and agree to only start at 7am. Better if you all do that, than just you I think.
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Old 14.02.2016, 19:13
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

Did you/the group informed the HR about this problem ?
Is there a Works Council in your company ?

You can ask the labor union for a statement.

But the group of workers have to act unanimously, otherwise there is no chance at all.
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Old 14.02.2016, 19:23
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

It is not quite clear to me whether the residents 'come into the room' (and get in your way when you are hurrying to finish) or whether they simply start eating before you have finished setting the tables, or whether they complain if their breakfast is not ready.

I've been in hotels when some folk are early in the dining room and get served, and other places where they simply have to wait until the correct time. At a swimming camp once, the swimmers were permitted to have an earlier breakfast than the official time and after just a couple of days all the residents turned up at that time too.

Oldies often wake early (probably had to earlier in life) and just don't like hanging around before breakfast. Or perhaps it's first come, first gets most coffee, the most choice rolls or whatever.

Without knowing more it's difficult to make helpful suggestions.
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Old 14.02.2016, 21:04
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

Hi, thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.

The residents come in early and expect to be fed. Our boss did go and speak to the ones that come in early, explaining that we are not allowed to serve them before 7.30 am, but it lasted a few days of the residents coming in just a little later than usual. We do not serve beforehand, but most of us feel really uneasy having to work around the residents. Some expect to be served beforehand and get grumpy when we do not and some do wait patiently, however, like I said before, it is not the most pleasant when you have people sitting there waiting.

All of us do not serve before 7.30 am.

I will try and just be a bit tougher and will have to learn to deal with grumpy impatient residents, maybe eventually they will just accept it and come in a bit later.

I will also continue to talk with my work collegues and see if we cant come up with some solutions.

Thanks again for your thoughts and suggestions
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Old 14.02.2016, 21:53
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

I have three Swiss relatives also working in old peoples home in Switzerland. Discussions over the years with them show how working conditions got worse over time and paying minimal wages and expecting maximum flexibility has become the norm. Sad to say people working there look for better jobs elsewhere.


In your case as you've worked there probably soon a year it's also time to look for a better job. In Switzerland it's important not to change the job too often but staying at a first job a year or more is considered OK. Just make sure to get the new job before you quit this one.


I think you will not change the system there and therefore changing the job is the best option.
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Old 15.02.2016, 04:52
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

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.... but most of us feel really uneasy having to work around the residents. Some expect to be served beforehand and get grumpy when we do not and some do wait patiently, however, like I said before, it is not the most pleasant when you have people sitting there waiting.

All of us do not serve before 7.30 am.

I will try and just be a bit tougher and will have to learn to deal with grumpy impatient residents, maybe eventually they will just accept it and come in a bit later.
You are employed from 7h, so there is no reason, no reason at all, to be there or be working before 7h.

The stress seems to me to be about how you feel, rather than about the rules of the job.

Would you be allowed to lock the breakfast room from the inside, so no-one can enter it till you fling open the doors with a big smile, at 7h30? Could you have some chairs placed outside the room for the early-birds?
Or if you cannot lock the doors, could you cordon off an area, so that you can move freely, and they can sit, waiting, on the other side of the rope barrier, until you welcome them and declare breakfast served?

Since you and your team should not be there before 7h, if the residents come down to breakfast before 7h, they should find a locked door or an empty room, and only someone from the night staff to help them.

If they arrive between 7h and 7h30, they should - if they are allowed into the room at all - find you and your team all totally busy.

Between 7h and 7h30, might there be a way to pause from your work for just a moment, to greet them and show them (you can be firm but kind) to the "waiting area" (the bench, the table with the yellow table-cloth, etc., at which no food is served, not during the waiting time, not ever) and then turn away to get on with your work preparing?
Could you have happy morning music (of your team's choice, compatible with the residents) placing, to the earlybirds might listen to that from 7h ot 7h30?


At 7h25, you could welcome those in the waiting area to go to their tables now, as breakfast is about to be served, in the next 5 minutes.

It's just a hunch, perhaps the early arrivers are in need of a bit of special attention and are grumpy not so much because they are hungry, per se, but because they have some emotional need. If you could determine that and fulfil it, with the minimum (= least time-intensive) intervention you can, you might find they will wait less grumpily. I also like the suggestion, above, that the residents might like to (and be capable of) doing some part of the tasks, e.g. sitting at this table to fold the serviettes.

Of course I don't know your residents, but perhaps it would be less stress for everyone if you all learnt their names, and greeted each one with a cheery "Grüezi, Frau Müller!" and "Guten Morgen, Herr Schmidt!" and perhaps a pat on the arm or shoulder, a genuine compliment that can be made in a Flash ("That's a pretty blouse," or "My, my your tie is dapper," or "You look wide awake!" or "Oh, I like the way you've done your hair") and a big smile, and then: "Please do have a seat. My colleagues and I want everything to be ready nice and punctually, so I'm going straight back to my tasks right away!" Then turn on your heel and walk away, right away and back to your müesli, etc.

Perhaps you could introduce a signal for "the buffet is opened", e.g. switching off the music, flashing the lights on and off three times, and walking around the room once, ringing a pretty bell. That way, EVERYone (all the staff, all those arriving punctually, and all the earlybirds) would know that there is nothing doing before 7h30.

I do see that you are not serving before 7h30, but it seems to be bothering you that the residents are "hanging around watching you". In that case, you either have to accept that they are watching you work, and make sure you don't bump into them as you move through the room, or better still find a way to make their precence there not actually be annoying. If they take up physical space you need for working quickly, then demarkate it. If it is their talking to you, then be strong and say you're working fast towards punctuality, and turn away from them. If they complain or insult you, shake your head and say: "Ach, Frau Becker! Was Sie nicht sagen!?" and just don't enter into it. Make sure there is a clock in the room, very visible, so you can respond to nearly any comment with: "Only 20 minutes to go," or "Nur noch 10 Minuten," as you count down.

As a further tip: Try to avoid saying: "I can't talk to you now" or "Breakfast won't be ready for another 15 minutes," or "No, you can't have coffee now," or similar formulations which include a negative. Instead, try saying: "I'm working on getting your breakfast ready!" or "Breakfast will be ready soon. Only another 15 minutes to go," and "As soon as everything is properly prepared, I can make sure you get your coffee."

Positive formulations can help you to feel upbeat about achieving the task by 7h30.

What would happen if, in fact, you and your team cannot achieve everything by 7h30? Some residents might complain. And then? Then you can use an affirmation: "I do understand. Yes, we're all working as fast as we can,". And then log the times: On Monday we opened breakfast at 7h35, on Tuesday at 7h50, on Wednesday at 7h30, on Thursday at 7h40... etc. That will soon show the residents - and your boss - that the task simply cannot always be completed in half-an-hour.
And will that matter? After they have eaten, do they need to rush off somewhere? Do you, as a team?

Last edited by 3Wishes; 15.02.2016 at 16:49. Reason: fixed quote
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Old 15.02.2016, 15:01
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

I used to live in front a Aldi store that opened at 8h30 on Saturdays. Around 8h00 the first "old people" started to arrive and stand outside in the cold/rain waiting to get in first. Inside, the Aldi girls were usually preparing to open shop.


By 8h30 - after half an hour of whining, complaining & clock-watching - tension was rising and most of them were completely wound up and agitated and started giving crap to the Aldi girls as soon as they opened the doors. For no reason what-so-ever.


I understand we have to respect the "elderly", but I seriously hope I will be a different type of person when I am old. For sure I hope I'll still be in bed at 8am on a Saturday morning.
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Old 15.02.2016, 16:39
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

I think I'd also agree with all your co-workers to not start before 7am. That way you all of you will have a leg to stand on and it will be easier to discuss this with your boss.


Also if you have more people complaining about the food not being ready, explain to them that you can't work before 7am. And if they want to raise a complaint, they should take it up with your boss. That way your boss will hear the complaints from the residents and not just from you and your co-workers.


Good luck
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Old 15.02.2016, 18:06
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

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I think I'd also agree with all your co-workers to not start before 7am. That way you all of you will have a leg to stand on and it will be easier to discuss this with your boss.

That's the problem as the OP says in her initial post. "90% of my co workers start at 6.45 am, so they can get the job done in time"


The OP can try and get everyone on board but there will always be the few (or in this case maybe the majority) that will start the 15 mins earlier rather than putting their foot down.
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Old 15.02.2016, 20:16
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

You and your colleagues sound like conscentious workers who work hard to give a good service to the residents. I am so sorry that you are taken advantage of in this way.
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Old 17.02.2016, 20:01
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

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That's the problem as the OP says in her initial post. "90% of my co workers start at 6.45 am, so they can get the job done in time"


The OP can try and get everyone on board but there will always be the few (or in this case maybe the majority) that will start the 15 mins earlier rather than putting their foot down.
Indeed , if the 90% continue to work for free in their free time, then yes, donpiedro, everything will stay the same.
Kiwi2Swiss is, however, unlikely to be the only one who thinks the situation is unfair, but plainly the co-workers, together, haven't come up with real, practical ideas to change the situation. Perhaps some of the many suggestions in this thread would catch the imagination of some of those in the 90%, and bring them over, one by one, to feeling that there is, in fact, something that can be done to improve the situation.
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Old 17.02.2016, 23:32
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

Kiwi2Swiss is paid minimum wage, co-workers are paid minimum wage.
Management has probably made clear to them (on more than one occasion) that they're as replaceable as a screwdriver.
Old people don't sleep very long. They probably wake up before 6 and then get bored and hungry.

I must say that I dread the day I must enter such a place on a permanent basis.
The reason is that by the time I get that old, the demographic changes that are slowly turning Germany and Switzerland into one giant old people's home are in full effect.
But maybe we've got robots then to do all the work and it's a bit like "Westworld"...
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Old 18.02.2016, 00:25
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

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I have managed to do it in 30 Min at times (but only if the residents did not appear early), but it was under considerable stress and running around to get it done. I do not want the stress
I think here lies the problem. Waiters are also on low wages and run like crazy, I mean I understand not wanting to do things in a rush but you said you can actually manage to do it in half an hour if people don't come in, so the employer calculated the times right after all. In any case I don't see a solution, he's the boss after all.
If the problem is really just the old people arriving early, and your boss is on your side on this it seems like, I would just try to find a solution like cordoning off the area until 7.30
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Old 18.02.2016, 00:36
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Re: being expected to work without being paid for it

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I think here lies the problem. Waiters are also on low wages and run like crazy, I mean I understand not wanting to do things in a rush but you said you can actually manage to do it in half an hour if people don't come in, so the employer calculated the times right after all. In any case I don't see a solution, he's the boss after all.
If the problem is really just the old people arriving early, and your boss is on your side on this it seems like, I would just try to find a solution like cordoning off the area until 7.30

But waiters get tips for good service 😉
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