Contract Says I Must Work Additional Hours Free: What are my Rights?
My contract of employment states that my contracted hours are 37 per week, but that "you will be expected to work additional hours to meet the needs of the business and to achieve your expected performance standards. No overtime will be paid for these additional hours".
Does this give my employer the right to demand me to work for free week in, week out?
LegaleseA standard UK employment contract will detail an employee’s regular working hours, and will also request that should the role demand it, the employee work additional hours unpaid. If that’s got you worried, don’t panic. UK Working Time Regulations state that the hours worked must not exceed 48 hours per week (unless you’ve voluntarily opted-out of the Regulations – some occupations may require that you do so). Therefore if you have not signed the opt-out then you cannot be asked to work more than a 48-hour week and, indeed, if you did so your company would be contravening employment law.
Money TalksSo far, so good - you’re happy that you’re not being asked to work in excess of 48 hours per week, but what about payment for the additional hours you have worked? You’re giving up your personal time for free, right? Right, unfortunately. Where overtime payment is concerned your employer is not legally obliged to compensate you for working extra hours, though where payment is granted it must meet or exceed Minimum Wage. For this reason you will need to check your individual employment contract for details, since overtime conditions vary from business to business. Your employer should set out the details of your employment in a contract within two months of your first working day, so if you don’t yet have one, now is the time to ask.
Above and BeyondIf you feel that you are owed some compensation for working extra hours but your employer does not offer overtime payment, ask about taking some time off in lieu. Often agreed on an unofficial basis, time off in lieu might not be quite as satisfying as financial remuneration but at least it might afford you the occasional duvet day in return for your dedication.
This guidance will provide you with background information and a point at which to begin communications, but if you find that after speaking with your manager you are still being asked to work too many additional hours, you shouldn’t hesitate to take the matter further. Make notes of the extra hours you’ve worked, detailing when and for how long, and approach an employee representative or member of the HR team. Don’t worry about rocking the boat or putting your job at risk – it’s important for you and your colleagues that your employer sticks to the rules.