Do I have to pay employees for training time?

Some businesses or industries require employee training.  Employers often are unsure whether or not they must pay employees for the hours spent while in training.  Additionally, are these training hours counted when determining overtime?

The hours spent training employees are generally compensable time and must be counted in the calculation of overtime hours unless all of the following conditions are true:

  • Attendance at the training is outside of the employee’s normal work hours;
  • Attendance is voluntary;
  • The training is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
  • The employee did not perform any productive work during the training.


“Normal work hours” means the employee’s normal, scheduled work hours.  If an employee normally works between 3 pm and 11 pm, but has training between 9 am and 12 pm, this training would be considered outside of work hours.  If an employee’s attendance at the training is completely voluntary – meaning the employer does not require the employee to attend the training and the employee is not led to believe that their employment would be adversely affected if they do not attend – the training would be considered the employee’s choice and may not be compensable.

Related to an Employee’s Job

If the training is directly related to the work that an employee will be performing for the employer, then the training must be paid.  In the case of an office employee being trained on a new computer program that will be implemented throughout the company, where the employee must know about this new program in order to effectively do their job, the training would be compensable.  If an office employee goes to a seminar outside of work hours to learn skills primarily applicable to another job or to prepare for job advancement, this training would not be considered work related.

Productive Work

Having an employee perform work while learning a new system would be considered productive work for which the employee must be paid.  A new employee answering incoming phone calls as a way to acquaint them with your standard business greeting is also productive work.  Unless the training does not require an employee to perform any work that benefits the business, working training hours would be considered compensable time.

Although most employee training time must be paid and must be counted as hours worked for the purposes of calculating overtime, you do not necessarily have to pay employees at their standard rate of pay for training time.  Every situation is unique, and UAP can assist in developing a training pay policy that is right for your business.