Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
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December 2013 Question of the Month - Can we legally require our employees to submit a timesheet prior to paying them

  • Fellow in Practice
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  • # 96694

We require our employees to submit timesheets daily for particular projects, but they don’t, despite many attempts to get them to comply. This causes problems for the directors as they are unable to invoice against jobs because the required timesheet information is not available.

Can we legally require them to submit a timesheet before paying them?

How should you and your client handle this situation?

What do you do?

  • 172 posts
  • # 96707

Ok, I'll bite......

Unless the award or employment contract makes provision for this I would think it not legal to withhold wages.

Wages for full time employment should not be delayed, however employment on a casual basis would require the reporting of hours worked in order to calulate entitlements.

That said - labour hire companies, whether employing on a FT, PT or casual basis, commonly pay wages based solely on submitted time sheets - and only then if counter-signed by the client who engaged the labor hire firm.

The example supplied says timesheets are required only on "particular projects" - indicating timesheets are NOT used to calculate wages but only to invoice clients. 

How should you and your client handle the situation?
Pay weekly payroll entitlements as per normal.

Employers should clearly communicate and consistently enforce their time-sheet policy so all understand the problems caused by tardiness, and possible consequences for their employment. ie. Enforcement might include verbal then written warning, adverse entry in employment record, spot-check/retraining, disciplinary hearing.

A carrot rather than a stick might be more productive. eg. Employment agreements could state only timesheets submitted on time would be considered when calculating performance bonuses.

Of course if this issue ever becomes relevant for a client in the future I will be sure to refer your authoritative answer in this thread before embarking on any course :-) 

Edited at 29 Dec 2013 12:52 PM GMT

Edited at 29 Dec 2013 12:54 PM GMT

  • Fellow in Practice
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  • # 97339

ICB's Response:


Unfortunately this is not a straight forward matter. Administration (in this case the filling in of timesheets and job information) is an essential part of the job, so it could be argued that the employees are performing poorly if they are ignoring one aspect of their job. This should be checked that it is clear in the job description/employment agreement for each employee, before taking any action like issuing a warning.

HOWEVER there is no legislation requiring an employee to provide a timesheet. So you are unable to penalise or discipline the workers for failing to provide something they are not required to. Even if this was in a workplace agreement it could be challenged, and argued that the supervisor/manager is responsible for completing the timesheet and associated information. If the matter went to Fairwork for any reason, it would be the supervisor who would be held liable for completing and/or signing employees’ timesheets.

The workers need to be advised about why it is important to the employer to receive the required information. Seek their co-operation—perhaps they do not realise the implications of their refusal to submit the timesheets on time and how important it is to the running of the business.

Could the project management be handled differently by the supervisor/manager?

Perhaps the employees need a different kind of timesheet/job log/project management software to make it really quick and easy for them to fill it in while on the job.

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