Overtime – when staff just won’t go home!

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The Working Time Regulations are in place to protect workers from the risks of excessive working. The regulations cover a maximum average working week (including overtime) of 48 hours, as well as rest breaks, days off and annual holidays.

While some flexibility is acceptable, many employees don’t mind staying late occasionally to finish an important project or impending deadline; however, excessive working time takes time away from employees’ free time and increases your company’s spending.

Overtime - hands typing on computer

What counts as overtime?

All hours beyond the work hours defined in the employment contract are regular working hours.

What about when staff won’t go home? 

What do you do with an employee who has accrued 48 hours of overtime when there has been a ban on overtime for the past two years? 

In this case, the employer had informed staff of the overtime ban and that they wouldn’t pay additional hours worked, but are they obliged to give this as time off in lieu?

Our advice to the employer is first to check the employee’s contract terms and any other policies that deal with overtime or time off in lieu so you’re clear on the contractual position. 

If it were made clear that no overtime would be allowed, this would usually include paid overtime and time off in lieu. Overtime refers to the hours worked, not just the method of payment. Therefore, it would appear that, contractually, you’re not obliged to pay for the additional hours or give time off in lieu.

It’s important to consider why the employee has worked the extra hours

  • Is she under pressure to complete the work, and by whom? 
  • Is her workload too high? 
  • Are there any performance or capability issues that need dealing with? 
  • Are there external pressures or reasons she may prefer to stay longer at work? 
  • Also, was the ban communicated clearly? 
  • Did you inform the employee of the ban before or after she had accrued the extra hours? 
  • What more have you done to prevent her from working the extra hours? 

A complete and frank conversation with the employee may uncover something you weren’t aware of, which will help your decision. 48 hours is a lot of extra work – you may find that the best solution is to negotiate a compromise. And, for the future, ensure you have a robust monitoring system in place, so this can’t happen again.

For specialist HR advice that you can act on, call us on 01243 544805.