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Overtime Laws in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, employers have no legal obligation to pay their employees for working extra hours. Neither does U.K. law impose any legal minimums on overtime pay.

Therefore, work contracts should outline in detail the employer’s specific policies for overtime work and rates of pay.

The Health and Safety Executive provides guidelines for the overtime policies that employers may maintain. The Work and Pay Rights Helpline also answers questions regarding overtime policy. (See Resources 3.)

General Regulations on Overtime

If stipulated in the work contract, employers may expect their employees to work overtime up to an average of 48 hours per week. A work week averaging over 48 hours per week cannot be enforced, even with a prearranged contract. However, an employee may still choose to work more than 48 hours per week with a pay rate as established in the work contract. An employer may also prohibit any overtime work, unless its allowance has already been expressly stipulated as part of the work contract.

However overtime is handled within a work contract, it cannot reflect any bias or discrimination granted to various employees. Likewise, the enforcement of overtime policies cannot reflect bullying toward any employees.

Overtime for Part-time Employees

Part-time employees may be entitled to overtime pay in cases of working longer hours than those stipulated in their work contracts. The rate of pay for these hours may be no greater than their normal rate, depending on what provisions are made in the work contract. If part-time employees work more than the normal working hours of a full-time employee, then the part-time employees must receive the same extra pay as would go to a full-time employee. If part-time employees are asked to work “unsocial hours” for which full-time staff would ordinarily receive higher pay, then the part-time employees must be extended the same pay rate.

Overtime and Time Off

In lieu of paying employees for overtime work, an employer may offer “time off in lieu” (TOIL). Use of a TOIL system must be stipulated in the work contract. Stipulations may include rules on when the time off may be taken or when the overtime work will qualify, or an employer may arrange the TOIL system on a case-by-case.

For overtime work done during holidays or during permitted leaves of absence, the usual overtime rates apply as outlined in the work contract. Which days of the week and which holidays are counted as normal working hours is to be outlined in the work contract. Workers in retail shops have the option of not working on Sundays as a part of their usual work contract. In such a case, the employer may choose to allow Sundays to be worked as overtime.