If you’re over 30 you’d be forgiven for thinking that being paid overtime is a right, as in all likelihood, your employer will have paid you double time or time and a half for working weekends in the past.
If you’re a little older, you might even reminisce about the days of double or triple time for working bank holidays or Sundays - perhaps even a few days in lieu.
Sadly, those days are gone and most employers today will only pay the luxury if you're paid hourly, rather than a fixed salary.
So what are your overtime rights? Here’s a quick overview.
Am I losing out on pay?
Overtime is generally considered to be any time worked over your normal working hours. So if your contract states 35 hours, then overtime is anything above and beyond that.
So here’s the bad news. Your employer does not have to pay you overtime.
Your contract usually spells out the circumstances under which overtime is paid out. But the key here is not to assume you can just do it then bill for it.
All paid overtime usually has to be agreed and signed off by a senior manager – and it’s usually under constant review too.
Because overtime pay isn’t a legal requirement, there isn’t a set rate either. Bear in mind though that you are legally entitled to the minimum wage, which the Chancellor has just announced is going up.
There’s nothing worse than being forced to work beyond your allocated hours. But can your boss make you? This is where you need to turn to your contract.
You can’t be made to work more hours than your contract says, but sometimes those terms can be a bit vague.
People are often unwilling to speak to their HR team in case their ‘card is marked’ for doing so. But there’s nothing wrong with clarifying what your contract means, just in case.
UK rules are a bit different to other countries, but generally, you can’t be made to work more than 48 hours a week.
You may be able to opt in to work more, but you must usually agree to do so in writing.
Now…many people feel obliged to do so, and here we enter into the complex world of employment tribunals.
This is far too complicated to cover here, so let’s just say if you feel that you are being pressured in to working excessively, speak to your manger, or find out more from an outside organisation like ACAS.
Of course, choosing to work overtime can be really lucrative. But make sure the terms are clear before you sign up.
Voluntary overtime is usually based on workplace demands. So if staff are off sick, or there’s a backlog of work, or a big event that needs extra resource, you may be able to get additional payments.
Businesses and other organisations can set their own rates of overtime. It’s entirely up to you if you agree to work overtime (unless your contract allows for you to work extra hours on request).
I’ve dealt with a few situations where it’s not always clear what the contract says you should be paid.
So if that isn’t clear, ask for a confirmation in writing what the terms are, the rate of pay and what’s expected from you. For example, if the rate of pay is conditional on you meeting certain targets.
A legal view
I asked top TV legal expert Gary Rycroft for his view. Gary tells me: "Overtime is more common with employees who are paid hourly rather than salaried.
"And clearly for workers paid hourly it’s much easier to calculate how much to pay for overtime."
Unless overtime is expressly guaranteed under a contract of employment, employers may stop employees working overtime, but employers must be careful not to discriminate in any way when saying who can and cannot work overtime.
Gary adds: "Under the Equalities Act 2010 certain characteristics like gender, race, religion, sexuality and pregnancy are protected in law and decisions about who can earn overtime should not breach such legal protection.
"If you think you have a protected characteristic and your employer is preventing you from working overtime because of it, you may have an employment tribunal claim."
You can get help with a complaint for free at www.resolver.co.uk.