Tracking Employee Work Hours and Averaging Agreement: An Employer’s Guide

  • HR Policies
Kiljon Shukullari

Kiljon Shukullari, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

One of the most fundamental aspects of employee management is tracking and calculating work hours, including breaks and overtime. It’s crucial for employers to capture these hours accurately so they can ensure fair compensation for their workers and that their businesses are complying with employment standards. 

Employers should also be aware of the rules surrounding full-time hours, student work hours, maximum weekly hours, and averaging agreements. A strong understanding of these matters can help you maintain a productive work environment.  

What are the full-time hours in Canada? 

Full-time hours in Canada are usually determined by the maximum number of hours an employee can work in a week. For paid employees and student interns, the standard hours of work are 8 hours per day and 40 hours a week. Anything less than 30 hours a week is considered part-time. 

Employees are entitled to breaks and a rest period throughout the work day and one full day of rest each week.   

Some professions are exempt from the standard work hours, they include: 

  • Truck drivers. 
  • Taxi cab drivers. 
  • Loggers. 
  • Employees on ships in the shipping industry. 
  • Running trades employees in the railway industry. 
  • Commission salespersons in the broadcasting industry. 
  • Commission salespersons in the banking industry. 

In these cases, employers can come to an “averaging agreement” with their employees to work a modified schedule that exceeds the maximum daily or weekly hours.  

What is an averaging agreement? 

When an employee has an irregular work schedule that varies on a daily or weekly basis, employers can come to an agreement with them on averaging their work hours over a specific period, usually two weeks or more and up to four weeks. Under this agreement, the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee overtime unless they have worked extra hours that exceed the agreed-upon limit.  

Example: An employee and his employer agree on averaging work hours to 44 hours per week over a two-week period. The employee works 55 hours the first week and 35 hours the second week, which comes out to a total of 90 hours worked. 

The employer can calculate his overtime hours as such: 

  • 90 hours ÷ 2 weeks = 45 hours per week. 
  • 45 hours per week - 44 hours per week = 1 overtime hour per week. 

Averaging agreements are sometimes an operational necessity, especially when there are external factors preventing an employee from working regular full-time hours. This may include a pilot working with an unpredictable flight schedule or a technician whose work depends on the availability of equipment or weather conditions. 

How many hours can you work in a week? 

The standard maximum work hour is 10 hours a day, 48 hours a week, for both paid employees and student interns. However, these hours are different if you’re working under a modified work schedule, an excess hour permit, an averaging agreement, or dealing with an emergency.  

How many hours can a student work in Canada? 

 Employers in Canada can hire student workers including those under the age of 18. However, under the Canada Labour Code, employers may not cause or permit an employee under 18 years old to work between 11 p.m. on one day and 6 a.m. on the following day. This is to ensure the work will not interfere with the student’s education.  

Students over 18 years old are subject to the same employment regulations as regular paid employees, including the same entitlements.  

Each province has a different guideline for young workers and students. In general, most provinces prioritize the importance of education and have regulations in place to ensure students have sufficient time for school-related activities and rest.  

Here is a brief overview of provincial legislation on student work hours: 

  • Ontario: In Ontario, students under 18 are limited to working 28 hours per week during school weeks and 48 hours during non-school weeks. 
  • British Columbia: Students under 15 cannot work during school hours. Those over the age of 15 need to follow the standard rules for work hours and overtime. 
  • Alberta: Workers between 15 to 17 years old can work without a government permit but require parental consent. There are restrictions on work hours for those working in retail and hospitality. 

International students 

International students in Canada are required to follow specific guidelines regarding the number of hours they can work while pursuing their studies. A student with a valid study permit and Social Insurance Number (SIN) is allowed to work up to 20 hours per week off campus during regular academic sessions, such as fall and winter semesters. There is a temporary lift on this 20-hour limit beginning on November 15, 2022, and will last until December 31, 2023. 

International students with a valid study permit and SIN can work as many hours as they want on campus. 

What are some of the ways to calculate work hours?  

 Depending on the needs of your operation, you may want to adopt either an analogue method or use digital tools to capture work hours. Here are some of the best ways to keep track of employee hours: 

  • Timesheets: Let employees manually fill out timesheets with their hours worked, breaks, and any overtime. 
  • Clock-in/out systems: You can give employees time clocks or digital tools to record their work hours. 
  • Electronic tracking systems: Use HR software to track and approve employee hours, vacations, and absences. 
  • Mobile Apps: Mobile applications allow employees to clock in and out using their smartphones. This is especially beneficial for remote or field workers. 
  • GPS: You can use a GPS tracking system or app to monitor and record employees' whereabouts during their working hours. This is helpful if your employees work on the road or are frequently in remote locations. 

What happens when employees work too many hours? 

If you fail to properly regulate employee work hours, you run the risk of overworking them and driving them toward burnout. Plus, you may be violating employment and labour laws when you ask employees to work over the legal limit. This exposes the company to potential fines, lawsuits, and penalties. 

Here are some of the common signs of an overworked employee: 

Decreased productivity: Overworked employees are less productive and take longer to complete everyday tasks. They are also less motivated and prone to presenteeism

Reduced quality of work: Tired employees are more likely to make errors and mistakes, which can impact the quality of work and can lead to wasted resources.  

Increased absenteeism: Overworked employees are more likely to experience health issues, both physical and mental, resulting in increased absences

Burnout and mental health issues: Extended working hours without adequate breaks contribute to burnout and mental health issues. Employees become stressed, anxious, and demotivated, which negatively affects their overall well-being. 

High turnover rates: excessive work hours can create employee dissatisfaction and resentment. This can result in higher turnover rates as employees seek healthier work environments for work-life balance. 

Do you need help tracking and calculating employee work hours? 

Our expert HR team can assist you with tracking and calculating employee work hours, vacation, sick leaves, and absences. We can help you stay up-to-date on employment legislation, regulatory changes, and meet compliance. 

Let us take the hassle out of HR management so you can focus on growing your business. Call today at 1 (833) 247-3652. 

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