What do you deserve for working overtime?

Have you been leaving work at 8pm for six months and it hasn’t affected your paycheck yet? How much overtime is allowed and how should overtime be legally compensated? And what can you do if your employer does not recognise overtime?

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Rules for overtime work

According to the Labour Code, overtime work means work performed by an employee at the order of the employer or with the employer’s consent in excess of the fixed weekly working hours (or outside the shift schedule).

Contrary to the general idea, however, overtime work can only be performed exceptionally. The employer may only order it for serious operational reasons, which may be, for example, various campaigns, seasonal work, organisational adjustments, change of production, etc. In exceptional cases, it may also be ordered for a period of uninterrupted rest between two shifts, or even for rest days.

However, there are legal limits to overtime work. It may not exceed eight hours per week and 150 hours per calendar year per employee.

You can only work overtime above this limit if you, as an employee, agree to it. Even then, the limit of eight hours per week still applies, but this time it is not calculated on a weekly basis, but as an average over a certain period. This can be up to a maximum of 26 consecutive weeks, or it can be extended to 52 weeks in a collective agreement.

Overtime must therefore not exceed the limit of 416 hours per year.

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However, it is not overtime if you arrange with your boss to take Tuesday off after lunch and work it on Wednesday evening, or if you don’t work at all because you called your wife during working hours and then stayed at work an hour longer. So it is not any work for your employer outside your pre-set hours, but only work that your employer has ordered you to do outside your set weekly hours, or at least for which you have got your employer’s permission. There is no need to formalise the consent in any way, a written form is certainly not required, a verbal or even tacit agreement will suffice.

For some employees, different conditions apply for overtime:

Overtime work by a manager

For a managerial employee, overtime is often counted to some extent automatically. By law, they have a higher limit for the maximum number of overtime hours, which is 416 hours per year.
The contract should specify whether or not the manager’s salary entitlements under the basic salary already include overtime. If the salary is fixed by a pay scale, then it is necessary to assess overtime separately.

Overtime for part-time work

For employees with shorter working hours, overtime is work in excess of the fixed weekly working hours, but beware that these employees cannot be ordered to work overtime.

In terms of remuneration, overtime work is defined as work in excess of a fixed weekly working time of 40 hours per week for short-time employees. You may therefore, in agreement with your employer, work for pay beyond the agreed shorter working hours, but you will only be entitled to overtime pay for work done in excess of the agreed weekly working hours.

Overtime in pregnancy and for new parents

The Labour Code prohibits ordering pregnant employees to work overtime. Also, employees who are caring for a child under 1 year of age may not be ordered to work overtime.

Overtime in the health sector

Different principles apply by law to the healthcare sector. The basic overtime limit of 160 hours per year is the same. However, slightly different rules apply to other agreed overtime, which may not exceed an average of 8 hours per week for health care workers and 12 hours per week for ambulance service workers, over a period of no more than 26 consecutive weeks; only a collective agreement may limit this period to no more than 52 consecutive weeks. A doctor or nurse may refuse to agree to additional overtime, but in practice this is almost standard. The normal limit of 160 hours of overtime is usually exhausted after two months, and with the shortage of health care workers in many hospitals, there is no other way of dealing with this.

Overtime reimbursement

According to the Labour Code, “for overtime work, an employee is entitled to the wage to which he or she is entitled for that time and an additional payment of at least 25% of average earnings, unless the employer and the employee have agreed to provide compensatory time off in lieu of the additional payment.” It is thus clear from the foregoing that the employer and the employee may agree that the employee shall be granted compensatory time off in lieu of overtime work in lieu of additional pay.

Tip: Find out what other cases you are entitled to paid leave.

However, wages can already be negotiated taking into account overtime work (up to 150 hours for regular employees and up to 416 hours for managers) and then the employee cannot claim anything for overtime work. This possibility of ordering work without adequate remuneration for the employer does not apply in the case of wage agreements in the form of a wage assessment.
The employer must therefore choose what is more rewarding, whether to agree with the employee on a specific wage that already includes overtime or to unilaterally determine the amount of the wage by means of a wage assessment and pay the overtime. If you are unsure whether your wages already include overtime or whether you are being paid overtime correctly, simply contact an attorney to help you evaluate what you are entitled to.

Tip: We have discussed the payroll and its requirements in our separate article.

Example: Mr Martin contacted us to ask us to assess his situation. His employer was handling a large volume of work that Mr. Martin could not handle during normal working hours. So he always reported to his employer that he was staying late to “finish the reports, do the required spreadsheets” and so on. Since this willingness was not reflected in his pay, despite the fact that the pay was set by the payroll, Mr Martin asked his boss directly about overtime payments, who was surprised that he did not order any overtime and took it as a voluntary activity and diligence on Mr Martin’s part. He was not going to reimburse overtime.

Mr Martin contacted us for advice. We advised him that if it could be shown that the work in question was ordered by his employer and could not normally be completed in 8 hours, and if he de facto reported the extra hours and his employer tacitly approved them, then the work in question should be treated as ordered overtime.

However, if the employer assigns work that the average person cannot objectively complete by the end of the working day, it is overtime. He contacted his employer again with a printed attorney’s statement, and his boss eventually reimbursed him properly.

Advantages and disadvantages of overtime

The advantages and disadvantages of working overtime are fairly obvious. It is obviously desirable and important to the employer if the work gets done on time and is properly completed.
In turn, the employee is entitled to an additional payment of 25% of average earnings for overtime work, unless he or she receives compensatory time off. However, even this can be considered an advantage, e.g. for a long weekend, etc.

The main disadvantage for the employee is, of course, the longer and more strenuous shift, against which, moreover, he often cannot defend himself (especially if he is a manager). In addition, there may not even be compensation in the form of additional pay.

What happens if I refuse to work overtime?

If the employer respects the limits set by the Labour Code, then in principle you cannot refuse overtime. And if you insist on refusing, you are at risk of financial and other penalties from your employer.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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