Can overtime be mandatory?

09 July 2019
Overtime is often used to deal with peak activity work schedules. So it’s important to understand there are different forms of overtime. Whether you can force your staff to work overtime will depend on the wording of their employment contracts. To help you understand, in this guide we explain everything you need to know about labour laws for salaried employees working overtime.

Understanding overtime

Mandatory overtime is, simply put, overtime that employees are contractually obliged to accept. This type of overtime is broken between guaranteed and non-guaranteed. Guaranteed overtime describes overtime you’re legally obliged to offer and a worker is legally obliged to accept. Non-guaranteed overtime refers to overtime you don’t have to offer. But when you do, the worker must accept it. When deciding on which form of overtime to rely on, you should consider the nature of your business and any anticipated work patterns. Should you wish to rely on any form of mandatory overtime, you must ensure this is clearly set out in the terms and conditions of employment. This will ensure any individual who refuses to accept the work will be in breach of their contract and open to disciplinary proceedings.

Your employee’s perspective

As an HR and employment law consultant, we get a lot of questions from businesses about this topic. But we also get to see how employees react to your procedures. The most obvious question is the following: “Can my job force me to work overtime?” So be aware that your employees are conscious of what’s expected of them legally. It’s important to understand you will not always have the right to make staff participate in overtime. Particularly where the wording of employment contracts makes reference to voluntary overtime. Under voluntary overtime rules, employers are under no obligation to offer overtime to their staff. In turn, they are under no obligation to accept any work that’s offered. Even in situations where staff are forced to work overtime, you must still ensure you abide by the rules around working time, which state that individuals must not work more than an average of 48 hours per week. This is unless they’ve signed an opt-out agreement. A common question from businesses regarding this is: “Does an employer have to pay overtime after 40 hours?” The answer is, of course, yes. Additionally, overtime commitments must not normally prevent individuals from taking least one day off per week, or two days off in a fortnight, and workers should still receive 11 hours of interrupted rest in a 24-hour period. To make sure that overtime commitments do not fall foul of these rules it is important to maintain accurate records of the amount of hours worked. The ability to make staff work overtime can be incredibly valuable to a business. However, it will be important to review the wording of existing employment contracts and make amendments where necessary to ensure this is possible.

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