Determining when overtime is appropriate and for whom can be a challenging managerial task. Exceeding regular hours comes with a financial cost, and can lead to employee burnout.
At the same time, if the only way to finish a project on time is to have people work extra hours, staff will have to work overtime, right?
Not everywhere. In some jurisdictions, many employees are legally forbidden from working overtime. Even the precise definition of “overtime” varies depending on where you work.
We’ve researched and summarized overtime pay laws from around the world. Of course, they’re more complex than the way they’re presented here, but the simplified versions still make for an interesting comparison. Take a look:
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates compensation practices for most American workers. If an employee works more than 40 hours in a week, they’re eligible for overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular pay.
Many farm workers, professionals, salespeople, live-in employees, fishers, traveling staff, and others are exempt from the requirements. By some estimates, “exempt” employees make up more than 30% of the workforce.
The 8-hour day and 40-hour week can be traced to Welshman Robert Owen and the early 19th century socialist movement.
While Federal legislation for overtime pay exists, it’s superseded by local rules in each province and territory. Overtime kicks in after as little as an 8-hour day or 40-hour week in British Columbia (BC), and after as much as a 48-hour week in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Canadian overtime is generally 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. In BC, it’s boosted to double-time if working more than 12 hours in a single day. In Newfoundland and New Brunswick, overtime pay is CAD$15/hour or the employee’s regular wage—whichever is greater.
Double-time is to be paid to any employee working more than 9 hours in a day or 48 hours in a week.
Employees earn time-and-a-half for any hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 44 in a week. If an employee has to work overtime on a day off, they earn double their regular wage. If the day off is a public holiday, they earn triple their regular wage, in addition to their holiday pay.
“Economically planned” China requires that employers gain approval from the relevant authorities before staff work more than 1 hour of overtime, unless it’s an emergency. No one can work more than 36 “emergency overtime hours” in a month, unless it’s a “major emergency” (generally natural disasters, political upheaval, or life-and-death situations).
Workers are paid time-and-a-half for hours worked beyond 8 in a day or 45 in a week. Security staff, many salespeople, senior managers, and people who earn over R115,572 in a year (~US$23,000) are exempt from the law.
Time-and-a-half kicks in after an 8-hour day or 48-hour week. If the overtime is between 10pm and 5am, or on a day off, staff earn double their regular wage.
If agreed-to in writing, Cambodian employees can work on 12 week schedules, which allows them to work up to 10 hours in a day and any number of hours in a week without being eligible for overtime, provided that they still average no more than 48 working hours per week.
France has some of the most liberal labour laws in the world. Attempts at reform are often met with protests and even rioting. latelelibre/flickr
Despite issuing directives for EUmember states to normalize their labour laws, European countries still have an inconsistent patchwork of overtime rules. Most are very similar to the American FLSA. France and The United Kingdom are two notable exceptions:
Staff earn time-and-a-quarter for hours worked between 36 and 43 in a week. Hours beyond the 44th are paid time-and-a-half. Senior management are exempt. Salaried professionals can negotiate their overtime requirements in their individual contracts.
Employees do not have the right to overtime pay, but they can’t be forced to work more than 48 hours in a given week. Individual employment contracts can prescribe an alternative set of rules for overtime and working hours.
What are the overtime compensation laws where you live? Do you think they’re fair, too liberal, or too strict?
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