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Overtime Laws: Employee Rights

Employees have no statutory right to get paid for working overtime. So, what are your rights for working extra hours and how do overtime laws work in the United Kingdom?

OVERTIME LAWS UK: As a rule, overtime refers to work done beyond the fixed working hours stated in a contract.

UK working regulations limit the average hours worked by most workers. In general, employers cannot force their staff to work more than 48 hours a week (as an average).

Even so, you can choose to work longer upon agreement between you and your employer. In most cases, this type of agreement must be in written format and signed.

Thus, working overtime can either be a voluntary act or a compulsory one.

Note: Any compulsory overtime must form part of the terms and conditions detailed in employment contracts.

Overtime Pay Rate

The United Kingdom has no minimum statutory levels of overtime pay. That means employers are not forced to pay workers for doing overtime.

But, average pay for total hours worked must not dip below the National Minimum Wage. Employee employment contracts usually clarify overtime pay rates and how they get worked out.

Note: You can get free and confidential advice on working hours, pay, work rights, and complaints through the Acas helpline.

Compulsory Overtime UK Rules

Can an employer force an employee to work overtime? The simple answer is no! But, some employees would have to work overtime if their employment contract says so.

The list of UK labour laws shows some restrictions even if a contract allows an employee to work extra hours. As a rule, they cannot get forced into working more than an average of 48 hours a week. Employees can agree to work longer hours. But, this kind of working agreement must be stated in writing and signed.

Can an employer stop an employee from working overtime? The simple answer is yes! Employers can stop their employees from working extra hours. The exception would be if their employment contract guarantees overtime working arrangements.

Even so, employers must not discriminate against anyone in the workplace. Thus, allowing some employees to do overtime work, while stopping others, would be a discriminatory practice.

Overtime and Part Time Workers

In some cases, a part-time worker employment contract may state a different working arrangement. But, as a rule employers will only pay overtime for part timers if:

  • They work longer hours than those set out in their employment contract.
  • They work more than the set working hours of full-time staff and the full timers would get extra pay for working the extra hours.
  • They work unsocial hours that full-time staff receive more pay for doing so (e.g. at night time).

Note: Employers should not treat part-time workers any less ‘favourably’ than full-time workers.

Time Off in Lieu (TOIL) and Paid Leave

It is not uncommon for employers to give time off to their employees instead of paying for overtime. Anyone who is employing people to work would know this arrangement as ‘time off in lieu’ or ‘TOIL’.

As a rule, it is up to the employee and employer to agree the specific terms of any time off in lieu (e.g. when the time off work can get taken).

Overtime Laws in the United Kingdom