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A Guide to Overtime Pay

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What You Need to Know

  1. Overtime is quite simply any work over the basic working hours as set out in a contract of employment.
  2. Regulations mean that most workers cannot be made to work over an average of 48 hours a week, though they can agree to work longer should they be given the option.
  3. However, young workers (ie those under the age of 18) are not allowed to opt out of regulations capping the working week at 48 hours.
  4. There is no single legal right to pay for working extra hours so minimum statutory levels of pay do not apply to overtime.
  5. That said, employers are obliged to ensure that average pay rates – including overtime hours – comply with the National Minimum Wage.
  6. Employers can opt to give workers with "time off in lieu" or TOIL rather than pay extra for any overtime worked.
  7. Overtime is often not taken into account when working out holiday pay or other forms of pay, including that relating to maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave.

What is Overtime?

Overtime is any work over the basic working hours as set out in a contract. Regulations mean that most workers cannot be made to work over an average of 48 hours a week, though they can agree to work longer should they be given the option, so long as this agreement is in writing.

Note, however, that young workers (ie those under the age of 18) are not allowed to opt out of regulations capping the working week at 48 hours and employers are only permitted to ask them to work overtime in exceptional circumstances, for example if no adults are available to cover a shift.

Paid Overtime

There is no single legal right to pay for working extra hours so minimum statutory levels of pay do not apply to overtime. However, average pay rates must not fall below National Minimum Wage, so it's worth keeping tabs of your hours and monthly pay to ensure your employer isn't breaking the law.

Overtime pay rates should be set out in a contract. They vary from employer to employer as well as sector to sector, meaning some jobs pay extra for working weekends or Bank Holidays, sometimes going up to double or triple time. However, while such high rates of pay used to be relatively common, these days very few employers will pay you above your standard rate simply for working on weekends, with TOIL days becoming increasingly common.

TOIL Days for Overtime

Sometimes, employers can opt to provide workers with more time off instead of paying for overtime. This is known in employment circles as "time off in lieu" or TOIL. It can be taken at any time that suits both the worker and employer, though the latter usually provides a lot of flexibility as a goodwill gesture.

Overtime is often not taken into account when working out holiday pay or other forms of pay, including that relating to maternity, paternity or adoption leave. Despite this, it is taken into account when overtime is guaranteed and people need to work overtime as part of their contract of employment.

Restrictions on Overtime

People should only ever work overtime if their contract says so. People cannot be forced to work over an average of 48 hours per week, even if they are told to work more than this. This extends to whether or not an employer discriminates against or bullies their worker; this is against the law and can result in serious punishment for the boss.

Employees must still ensure that their contract of employment sets out what their normal working hours and days are, including weekends, before entering into any debates over their overtime with bosses or colleagues.

Changes in Working Conditions

Changes to patterns of work also affect the rules with overtime pay in jobs. Employers may often need to change conditions of work because of economic factors or external issues that are beyond control or need a swift response. However, it is also a breach of contract to change working conditions without any agreement, so this agreement is complicit in any subsequent changes to overtime.

Further Reading

  • If you require further aid, the Pay and Work Rights Helpline offers both free and confidential advice and can be reached by calling 0800 917 2368. Alternatively make enqueries about your employment rights through this form.
  • Looking for a new challenge? Check out the positions available on the UK Net Guide jobs listings.
  • Here’s some good advice on how to avoid over working and the stress that comes with it.
 
12 comments - Want to comment on this article? Click here
steph steph
08/02/2014

My contract set hours are 37.5. my contract does state I may be required to work unpaid extra hours. I am an hourly paid worker. Does this mean that they can make me work 6 - 8 hours over time each day and not have to pay me for it?
An employee has just walked out so I now work my 8 hour shift and am then told as they have no replacement, I have to work to cover this employees shift but wont be paid! is this legal? and can I refuse to do the extra shift?

 
steph steph
07/02/2014

My contract set hours are 37.5. my contract does state I may be required to work unpaid extra hours. I am an hourly paid worker. Does this mean that they can make me work 6 - 8 hours over time each day and not have to pay me for it?
An employee has just walked out so I now work my 8 hour shift and am then told as they have no replacement, I have to work to cover this employees shift but wont be paid! is this legal? and can I refuse to do the extra shift?

 
Phil Phil
05/11/2013

Hi all, I work a shift pattern and last month one of the team moved on to another job. While the business was recruiting a replacement I had to cover some extra shifts to the tune of 95 extra hours in the month. When I asked what rates I should book on the overtime form I was told it was just normal rates ( the same as my normal hourly pay ) yet I had worked a few week-ends ( 12 hour shifts ) and some mid-week overtime also. The overtime form had sections for rates X 1 , X 1.5 ,and X2 etc. time and a half / double time as one would expect but alas not for me just normal rates ( X1 ). I asked why the overtime form had all these different rates on it then ? Whoops . .did not get an answer ? When your employer is in need of that extra help / support some of us will give that support then after the crisis is over and it's time to pay for that support one is rewarded with cheap trick via HR ( human remains ) just because they can't earn a little extra and get pleasure from the controlling rush ? never mind . . won't help them again but will find a way to offset the loss of earnings. All people who work in the public sector. should spend at least 6 months working in the private sector to get a clue as to how things should work and how not to waste the

 
nikki nikki
16/10/2013

I have started a new job 4 weeks ago I am contracted to work 24 hours and is supposed to be paid at 7.41 ph I have been doing overtime but I am on a salary I get paid a daily rate instead of an hourly rate I worked 65 hours last week and got paid for 39 this takes my wage to around 5.80ph what can I do here please help thanks

 
Hannah Hannah
23/09/2013

Hi, I work 22.5 hours per week and have been at the same company for 4 years. My boss said I have to work over 40 hours to earn time and a half. Is this right? Also, I don't have a written contract to refer to.

 
margaret margaret
11/05/2013

some one in my work called in sick our market place manager asked if i would stay on i said no as needed to get home to kids asked can my husband not do it told he was away then told get a baby sitter , i asked who was going to pay for that as it would cost more for that on short notice than what i would earn . he then told me i was no good at my job coz i wouldnt do it (i do do overtime when its convinient) was i right or wrong thanks

 
UK Net Guide UK Net Guide
26/03/2013

Hi Beckylou,

Your level of pay is set out in your contract and cannot be changed without your agreement. Furthermore, if you refuse a paycut and are then sacked as a result, you can pursue a case of constructive dismissal. However, bear in mind if the company is in trouble and needing to save money they can legitimately make you redundant, so it can be in your interest to take a pay cut.

Hi Aniko,

Overtime is by definition, outside of the normal hours stipulated in your contract. Whilst this means they don’t legally have to pay you for overtime, it also means you don’t have to do it. If working extra hours unpaid brings your average hourly pay below the national minimum, your employer is breaking the law.

Hi Paula,

Yes, of course.

Hi Simon,

You can’t be forced to work unpaid overtime, so yes, it would be the employer’s problem. But if the company will go under otherwise, it could be in your best interest to work some extra hours.

 
beckylou beckylou
26/03/2013

overtime was paid at time and half. now employer wants to only pay time. This is going to disadvantage my pay. can they do this if i dont agree to new conditions

 
ANIKO ANIKO
30/01/2013

So is it possible when I do every day an hour extra they don't have to pay for even I was working?! How can it be legal?!

 
Paula Paula
13/01/2013

Is there such a thing as working extra hours out good will and not pay ?

 
Thea Arnott Thea Arnott
27/11/2012

I'm just a waitress/barmaid in a chain hotel in a smallish town, i cannot legally demand any extra pay for working New Years Eve or New Years Day can I? Also if I were to say to my boss 'I'm not working Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve or New Years Day' they have no right to unemploy me do they? Clueless 17 year-old right here haha

 
simon d martin simon d martin
28/07/2012

HELP PLEASE>>> What if an employer puts you (as staff) in the situation where you are 'obliged' to work to get them out of a hole, (A hole of the directors own making?!) By obliged I mean they are 'relying' on their staffs better nature to help them out rather than a direct "you must work extra hours". The deadline has to be achieved... Surely if staff decide not to work extra hours (without promise of pay, TOIL or special payment) is that not the employers problem? Any advice please...

 

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