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.