New guidance on overtime issued by Acas

Acas has issued new guidance on overtime. The guidance is summarised in this article. Overtime is generally considered to be additional hours an employee works outside the hours s/he is usually required to work. This may be offered to employees so an employer can cope with an increase in demand, for example, a retailer may offer overtime to its employees during the Christmas period.

Overtime is categorised and both an employer and an employee’s obligations are dependent on which category of overtime is concerned. These categories are as follows:

  • Voluntary overtime.
  • Compulsory and guaranteed overtime.
  • Compulsory and non-guaranteed overtime.

Where voluntary overtime is concerned, there is no obligation on the employer or the employee. The employer is not required to offer the employee overtime, and if the employer does choose to offer overtime, the employee is not required to accept it.

Where compulsory and guaranteed overtime is concerned there is an obligation on both the employer and the employee. The employer is obliged to offer overtime to the employee and, where overtime is offered, the employee is obliged to accept this offer and work overtime.

Where compulsory and non-guaranteed overtime is concerned there is no obligation on the employer, however there is an obligation on the employee. The employer is not required to offer the employee overtime. However, if the employer does choose to offer the employee overtime, the employee is obliged to accept this offer and to work the overtime.

The Acas guidance provides that “an employer who wants to rely on either guaranteed or non-guaranteed overtime should clearly set out in the terms and conditions of employment that the overtime is compulsory.” An employer may also choose to set out details concerning their policy and procedure on overtime in their staff handbook.

An employee’s working time (including overtime) is limited by statute to protect their health and safety. The following limitations are provided under the Working Time Regulations 1998:

  • An employee shall not work on average over 48 hours per week. An employee may opt out of this limitation provided this is agreed in writing between the employee and the employer.
  • An employee is entitled to either one day off each week or two days off in a fortnight.
  • An employee is entitled to a rest period of not less than 11 hours in each 24-hour period.
  • An employee is entitled to a 20 minute break if his/her shift lasts more than 6 hours.

There is no rule which requires employers to pay their employees for overtime worked. It may be prudent for employers to offer payment, or a higher rate of pay for additional hours worked as this incentivises employees to accept and work overtime.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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