Can I make my employees work overtime?

There comes a time in every business when all hands are required on deck, paving the way for overtime.

You are working all the hours in the day to make your business a success – but can you get the support you need by asking employees to work overtime?

What is overtime?

An employee’s Contract of Employment will specify what the employee’s working hours are. If an employee works more than these hours, this will normally be considered overtime.

Can I force an employee to work overtime?

Employees will only be required to work overtime if their Contract of Employment clearly specifies this.

In accordance with the Working Time Regulations, employees cannot work more than an average of 48 hours per week. The average is worked out over a 17 week reference period. When calculating average hours, time taken as statutory annual leave or sick leave does not count.

The employee can opt out of this working week limit by agreeing to this in writing. In many cases, employers have a specific clause in the contract which says the employee agrees to opt out of this 48-hour working time limit and they may choose to terminate this agreement to opt out of the working time limit by giving notice in writing. This notice must be at least seven days, but cannot be more than three months.

Remember there are different rules in place for young workers – someone over the compulsory school age, but still under the age of 18. They are normally not permitted to work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours per week.

Do I need to pay employees for overtime?

Employers are under no obligation to pay workers for overtime, but the employer must ensure that the employee’s average pay for all the hours they have worked does not dip below the relevant minimum wage. See the current National Living Wage and National Minimum Wages rates here.

If the employee is paid overtime, this should be clearly set out in the Contract of Employment, stating overtime rates of pay and how these are calculated.

In some cases, employers may decide to allow time off in lieu of any overtime worked.

If you are an EW client, for information on overtime and holiday pay, go to My EW where you will find an FAQ on the topic.