Employment law: Overtime Q & A

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See our quick fire Q&A with the experts on the legalities governing overtime.

Q: Some of my staff work hours over and above their contractual requirements, as I do not specifically request that they work the hours am I obliged the pay them over time?

A: This would be dependent upon their contractual terms and conditions of employment. Within the contract of employment, it should specify if an employee is entitled to payment for overtime and the method of authorisation required for this. Normally, an employee would be required to gain prior authorisation for paid overtime and therefore had the employee not gained prior authorisation then technically they would not be entitled to payment.

Q: I have recently set up my own business and am aware that it will be necessary for my staff to occasionally work extra hours. Are there any guidelines which stipulate when overtime has to be paid at time and a half or double time or is this at my discretion?

A: This would be a company decision, as contracts may include a clause which requires employees to work additional hours either as and when requested to do so by the Company or where necessary to fulfil the requirements of their position, without payment.

However factors which you could take into consideration before finalising the terms and conditions of employment regarding the payment of overtime and rates, could include whether or not it is a normal day of work. Normally the higher rates of overtime payment would apply to days when the employee would not normally be required to work.

Q: I would prefer to offer my staff time off in lieu rather than pay them overtime for any extra hours that they work – is this acceptable?

A: Yes, this is an acceptable method of reclaiming overtime worked. However, this should be clearly stated within their contract and also highlighted to employees who they require authorisation from for arranging to take the time back. In addition, you may wish to introduce a time period during which they can reclaim the time, to avoid a build-up of time off in lieu.

Q: My business is growing and as a result there is an implicit expectation that senior members of staff will work the hours which are necessary to ensure that all work is completed. Is it necessary to recompense them for this time or is it accepted that because of the level of their position that this is an element of their salary?

A: Normally, it would be accepted that this is commensurate with the level and salary of their position. However, employees should not be expected to work in excess of the working time regulations. In exceptional circumstances where a specific task or project requires a substantial amount of overtime, then a company may take a discretionary decision to make a payment for overtime worked during that particular period.

Q: If my staff work extra hours at the weekend am I obliged to pay them for their travelling time?

A: Unless they are normally paid for travel time, then this would not be applicable. However, this is something that should be agreed to prior to them undertaking overtime at the weekend should the need arise.

Paula Matheson is an Employment Law Advisor at Empire HR.

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