by Melany Hallam
Question: When you work overtime, are you paid time and a half?
Take the survey here.
We’re getting into the busy holiday season and many of us will be working extra hours to cover longer store opening times and holiday party events, or to get work done before we go away on vacation. And that means overtime, baby!
In BC, overtime means that you’re paid time-and-a-half of your regular rate for all hours worked over eight in a day and double time for over 12 hours. On a weekly basis, you’re paid time-and-a-half for all hours worked over 40 in the week, excluding any daily overtime hours.
This sounds like such a straightforward rule. But there are many exceptions, as well as a chronic lack of clear overtime policies – and a lack of effective communication of said policies – in some organizations. The reality of overtime pay is not so simple. Remember last year, when Scotiabank employees received a settlement for unpaid overtime to the tune of an estimated $95 million in payouts for 5,000 full-time employees? If you read the legal opinions on the case, this lengthy legal battle really came down to a very unfortunate misunderstanding of the types of positions exempt from being paid overtime.
The most important thing to learn from this is that both you and your employer must be very clear on company policy and provincial labour laws – and how these apply to you specifically. This isn’t as easy as it sounds – there are all kinds of exceptions to the rules. For example, the BC Employment Standards Act exempts from overtime pay jobs such as fishing and hunting guides, live-in fish camp workers, towboat operators, charter boat crew, certain transportation workers… the list goes on. And this is just for non-unionized employees. Union employees have their own set of negotiated rules.
BC also exempts from overtime professions such as lawyer, dentist and architect, high-technology professionals and anyone with managerial responsibilities. However, just because your job falls into an exempt category doesn’t prevent you from negotiating alternate overtime terms with your employer, such as time off in lieu. It also doesn’t mean, for example, that a job called “managerial” by your employer necessarily meets the legal definition of the term (that was Scotiabank’s mistake). I once had a job classified as managerial by my employer but the only person I actually supervised was myself. Looking back on it now, I really should have been paid overtime for all of those extra hours, but I was too busy working to figure that out!
But getting back to the holiday season, in addition to getting overtime over Christmas, there’s also the possibility of extra pay for working on a statutory holiday. You can get time-and-a-half for the first 12 hours worked on a stat and double-time for any work over 12 hours; PLUS an average day’s pay! But beware. If you’re being hired as a temporary employee over the holidays, you’ll likely not be eligible for any of that, even if you work on Christmas Day. That’s because BC labour laws say that you don’t get overtime for working a stat holiday unless you’ve worked for your employer at least 30 calendar days immediately prior to the holiday, and you’ve been paid for at least 15 of those days.
My brain hurts.
So before you take that extra work over Christmas hoping for overtime pay or that job with a company that SAYS it doesn’t require you to work overtime, check out the fine print. Know your rights. Overtime is a tricky business.
- a quick video summary of BC overtime rules for non-union employees, https://youtu.be/Yw5BQJkXApk
- a legal opinion piece on common overtime risks and misconceptions in Canada, http://www.hrreporter.com/blog/canadian-hr-law/archive/2012/01/10/overtime-risks-and-misconceptions
- legal opinion on the Scotiabank overtime class action suit, http://www.mcmillan.ca/Settling-Outside-the-Box-Scotiabank-reaches-novel-deal-in-overtime-class-action
- an article arguing that Canada’s overtime pay laws are outdated, http://www.canadianbusiness.com/blogs-and-comment/canada-overtime-laws-make-no-sense-anymore/
- an article from The Guardian on health risks of working overtime on a regular basis, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/20/working-longer-hours-increases-stroke-risk