Do you know your rights when it comes to saying no to overtime at work? Read our guide

You'll want to read this.

Overtime pay: A woman in an office looks worried and over-worked
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You'll want to read this.

New research from Get Living has revealed 53% of people feel overwhelmed by work at least once a week working from home. The joy of not having to trek into the office was fun, to start with, but if you're one of the many who now feels like they're working harder than ever before - with little switch off time, too - it might be time you read up on overtime pay.

The 'hustle culture' deeply ingrained within UK society, while notably different, has got worse in the last year. For many, WFH has actually meant no switch off, no divide between 'work' and 'home' life, and a blurring of boundaries.

Toxic workplaces are still thriving. People are logging on earlier and logging off later, for a myriad of reasons, but largely because they can, from the comfort of their living room, without noticing what an affect it's having on their overall quality of life.

Workplace stress is still very real - even if we're not technically 'in' the workplace.

If you are working round the clock most days and feel like you're not reaping much reward for it, don't worry. We've got an expert-led guide to the definition of overtime for you, covering how to make sure you're not doing too much, and an outline of your full rights with regard to overtime pay, too.

Your guide to overtime pay, from an expert

According to Hatti Suvari, Consumer Advocate and host of podcast Get Legally Speaking, the current UK rights when it comes to saying no to overtime at work can be difficult to get to grips with.

What are the current UK rights on overtime pay?

"Let’s face it, we're just not taught this information," she shares. "Currently in the UK, you only have to work overtime if your contract states so. However, it is important to note that even if your contract does state that you have to work overtime, by law, you cannot be forced to work more than an average of 48 hours per week."

Pretty simple, then. The UK government states the same, and ACAS shares that although some employers will contractually offer you pay for any overtime hours, there's actually no legal obligation to do so.

Overtime pay: A woman working overtime at home

What is the definition of overtime?

Simply put, 'overtime' is the term used to describe any hours you work outside of your contracted hours, according to Hatti.

"It's also any hours that you work that take your salary below the minimum national wage of £8.91 per hour," she explains.

So, for example, if your employment contract states that you are contracted to work between 8am and 6pm, then any hours work additionally to these hours is classified as overtime.

"It is key to note that if you do not have an employment contract in place with your employer, then verbal or oral agreements can be in place," she goes on. "They do have the same legal authority as a written employment contract, however verbal agreements can be much harder to prove, if either party disputes the terms of such."

Feel like you're actually working an awful lot of overtime at current without really knowing it? Sometimes, overtime is necessary - but the following tips might just help you protect your mental wellbeing and also your own rights.

5 tips for if you're unhappy with the amount of overtime you're being asked to do

To make sure that you can give your very best of your efforts to your employer, or if you are an employer, that your employees can work at their optimum, Hatti's top tips are as follows.

1. Read up on your rights

This article is a good place to start. Arming yourself with the knowledge of your rights is important for knowing if you are being asked to do too much.

2. Get to grips with your contract

Next up, it's really important to know what your employment contract stipulates and what is expected of you, contractually, by your employer, shares Hatti. "Having an understanding around your working hours is essential," she shares. "It means you leave less room for misunderstanding, and both you and your employer can be clear on the terms of your hours and any overtime that may be worked and paid."

3. Be firm but professional

As Hatti points out, if you are not contractually obliged to work overtime, you do not have to do extra hours.

4. Talk to your employer

At this point, it's always worth having an open but professional discussion with your employer. If you don't feel like they are listening to you, perhaps approach a more senior figure.

"If you feel that your hours or duties are too much for you to handle, then talk with your employer and be honest about your thoughts and feelings," Hatti advises. Remember, you can chat to them about anything - negotiating a pay rise, managing your workload, or even what isn't working for you in your current role - that's what they're there for, after all. "Good communication channels can often have very positive outcomes," she says.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.