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Could you explain the meaning of the expression "off the clock"?

Do I need to use hyphens as in "off-the-clock"?

I have seen some explanations on the Internet, but none of them seem to be reliable.

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    It's just "off the clock", no hyphens, and it means that you're doing something for someone for free, without charging them like you normally would (ie if you were 'on the clock', meaning you're charging for your time). Apr 18, 2016 at 9:49
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    It means, using the metaphor of a factory environment where you "clock in" at the start of the work shift and "clock out" at the end, you are not currently "clocked in", and the time you're spending is not being charged to whatever account the "clock" accounts for.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2016 at 12:20

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https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/off_the_clock

Not at work.

Not being paid for working.

Relaxing.

Most commonly it is used to mean that you currently not working. For example, if your work shift is over and you're heading home, and a customer asks you to help them, you may tell them 'Sorry, I'm off the clock, go speak to someone at the till'.

It can also mean that someone who you would typically have to pay for help is doing it for free, also known as pro bono. For example, if you're speaking to a lawyer friend about a legal matter, and you ask him if you need to pay him for his advice, he may go 'Hey, I'm off the clock, don't worry about it'.

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    In modern terminology you may still be on the job and drawing salary, but not be charging your time to any particular account or project.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2016 at 12:20
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    It can mean that you still expect to be paid for a job, but without the knowledge of your employer or the tax authorities - a job done with no timesheet or taximeter involved. Like when the plumber does a quick, easy job, and says "Just give me £20", which you know won't appear on any records. Apr 18, 2016 at 14:26
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    @DavidGarner In that case I'd say it was "off the books" rather than "off the clock"
    – SGR
    Dec 28, 2017 at 13:59
  • @SGR I think you're right: certainly, "off the books" sounds more likely, now that you mention it. Dec 29, 2017 at 16:08

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