Can an Employer Require an Employee to Work Overtime?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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The laws and regulations regarding overtime vary widely among regions and countries throughout the world. Some developing nations may have no overtime laws at all – at least not any that are enforced. Others monitor overtime regulations quite strictly.

Whether an employer can force an employee to work overtime depends on a number of factors such as whether the type of occupation and workforce regulations in a jurisdiction. In some cases, countries may determine these laws. In other cases, local and state jurisdictions may be able to determine their own regulations for those who work overtime.

Whether or not an employee has the right to refuse to work overtime is one matter; however, certain employee rights almost universally apply to overtime regulations. For example, those who are required, or who choose willingly, to work overtime are usually rewarded with a greater rate of pay above what they are offered normally. In many cases, this will be 150 percent of the normal rate of pay or greater.


In the United States, most employees can be required to work overtime hours by their employers. Again, this depends on the situation. In some cases, work cannot go beyond 10 to 12 consecutive hours, depending on the occupation. The only employees an employer cannot require to work overtime are those under 16 years of age. Additional regulations may be in place for those employees still in high school. For example, an employer may not be able to make high school students work overtime during weeks school is in session.

For countries in the European Union, the rules are somewhat different. While overtime can be required in these countries, it is the directive of the European Union that no employee work more than 48 hours per week. This may cut down on the ability to work what are known as "split shifts." However, workers have the right to opt out of the maximum overtime requirement, thus enabling themselves to work additional overtime if desired.

In Australia, employees are not allowed to work more than 38 hours in any one week but the law also allows for "reasonable additional hours." However, the hours worked can be averaged over a 12-month period, meaning there may be weeks where an employee could work overtime in excess of this amount. Lawmakers in Australia feel the 38-hour maximum requirement preserves quality of life issues in the country. To help alleviate concerns for those who work overtime, Australian law requires employers to adjust their overtime policies when there is a physical or mental health risk to the employee caused by working too many hours. However, the wording allows for a great deal of subjectivity.


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Post 6

That stinks, because I value my time more than time-and-a-half pay. I'm busy trying to plan my wedding, and money is not the limiting factor -- time is!

How am I supposed to make appointments with vendors and visit the venue if I have to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day? This is a very lame law.

Post 5

i live in texas. can the oil fields make their employees work more than 12 to 18 hours a day?

Post 4

Can an employer force you to work seven days a week open to close in the retail department that is seasonal. So I worked open to close every day from 4/15 through 11-15 and if I refuse to return to work because of this can I lose my unemployment? I live in NJ.

Post 3

SauteePan- Yes they can. If you are hired to work for a company they will usually stipulate that there are certain peak times in which employees are required to pitch in a help and as a result they will receive overtime pay.

A perfect example is any one working in a retail environment in the fourth quarter of the year. This is the busiest season for retailers and many employees are working extended hours beyond their traditional forty hours a week.

Most states are at will states meaning that a company can fire an employee for any reason, so if an employee does not comply with working overtime hours then the employee might very well be terminated due

to non compliance.

The hours of work and overtime are set on a schedule. Anything beyond the normal forty hours is given time and a half of hourly wages. I think that there are a lot of men at work puttin in overtime hours especially in the retail industry during the Christmas holidays.

Most companies earn anywhere from fifty to seventy five percent of their revenue during this time period so they need all hands on deck.

Post 2

Sunshine31-Can a company force you to work overtime? I mean can my employer force me to work overtime?

Post 1

I think that many employees in this economy would welcome any opportunity to work more overtime. Many employees are offered time and a half for overtime pay.

This means that they will receive one and a half times their normal hourly compensation for each additional hour beyond their forty hours. These are overtime rules.

For example, if the employee normally earns $10 per hour, their overtime work laws indicate that the employee is entitled to earn $15 per hour on each overtime hour worked. This makes overtime compensation more lucrative which is why most employees enjoy working overtime.

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