Working Overtime? Make Sure You Know Your Rights

What is Overtime?

Working OvertimeBefore beginning your job, you and your employer should have discussed and agreed upon all the conditions of your employment, including the number of hours you would be required to work each day/week. Although this varies from country to country, the universally accepted work week is 40 hours, and any additional hours worked are considered overtime.

Must You Work Overtime?

Unless it is specifically written into the terms of your employment agreement, you cannot be forced to work overtime hours. In the UK, even with an agreement, an employee cannot be expected to work more than 48 hours per week.

What Are the Laws Governing Compensation for Overtime Hours?

In the US, overtime is regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you are not a salaried worker, you must be compensated at a rate one and a half times your regular hourly wage. Many states also have their own additional overtime laws. When both laws apply, the employee must be paid according to the higher rate. Pursuant to a March 2014 Presidential Memorandum, salaried workers also will be eligible for overtime pay if they earn $23,000 or less per year.

In the UK, employers are not required to pay extra for overtime hours, but the aggregate amount paid according to the total hours worked, regular and overtime, cannot bring the salary to a level below minimum wage.

Does Working Overtime Increase Productivity?

Studies such as those conducted by Ford Company, show that overtime hours do not increase a worker’s productivity, and in fact, do the opposite. The Ford study, conducted several times during the 90s, proved that any increase in productivity that might result from regularly adding 20 hours to the standard 40 hour weekly schedule lasts only for three to four weeks, after which the extra hours begin to have a negative effect. The employee gets burned out, making them less creative and enthusiastic during the regular work day. Other factors, such as fatigue, begin to negate any potential gains from overtime hours. Tired employees tend to be more irritable and tense, harming the atmosphere of teamwork and good relationships in the office.

Working Overtime Can Be Harmful

Fatigue is also not good for employees working in dangerous environments or with equipment, increasing the odds of accidents. Long hours spent in industrial workplaces also increase exposure to chemicals, noise, and extreme temperature variations. Operation of equipment for more than 40 hours a week increases risk to conditions such as repetitive stress syndrome.

Working a lot of overtime hours means less time with the family and friends, creating a severe imbalance between an individual’s professional and personal life, which can result in frayed relationships, isolation, and even divorce.

A University College London report states that people who work longer than the standard 7-8 hour work day increase their risk for heart attack by as much as 67%. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study that reports that middle aged workers spending more than 55 hours per week at their job are at risk of brain damage, dementia and suffer from short-term memory loss.

Should You Work Those Overtime Hours?

If you need to complete an important project or there are seasons during the year when your office is extra busy, then working overtime is not a bad thing. Just don’t make it a habit.