Overtime in the UK: An Insightful Guide to Extra Hours

Overtime in the UK

In this article, we'll explore everything there is to know about overtime in the UK - from what qualifies as overtime work and how it affects your salary to who monitors it and how much should be paid.

What is meant by overtime?

Overtime is any time worked beyond the standard working hours for your job. That means that over time begins when you work past your normal shift, and overtime pay is generally calculated by the hour.

Overtime pay in the UK

Employers don't have to pay workers for overtime work. But the normal working hours wage should equal the National minimum wage.

To make calculating overtime pay easy, it's normally set to 1.5x the worker's normal hours rate. However, it's not a legal requirement. Many employers often pay 'time and a half' to abide by the traditional framework.

Employers must ensure that overtime is voluntary and have a system to keep track of overtime hours worked. Overtime pay rates also depend on how much overtime will need to complete the work.

UK overtime laws

  • Not Mandatory to Work Overtime: No law stipulates that a UK employee must work overtime, nor any legal requirement mandating an employer to provide additional hours. Extra shifts are strictly optional.

  • Not Obligatory to Pay Overtime: While there's no legal requirement to compensate employees for their overtime hours, you must ensure that overall basic working hours wages do not dip below the National Minimum Wage.

  • Must Include In Employment Contract: To ensure legality and clarity, your overtime policy should include essential details and calculation methods.

  • No Minimum Pay rate: You are not required to pay your employees a fixed overtime rate, as this depends on the industry and company you operate. Ultimately it is up to you and your employee, depending on your contractual agreement.

  • Max 48 Working Hours per week: It is essential to be aware that the Work Time Directive 1998 forbids an employee from working more than 48 hours per week on average. Nevertheless, if the two parties mutually agree to a longer shift schedule, there must be a signed document outlining such.

Useful read: Decoding Overtime in the US: A Comprehensive Guide for Employers

What if you are a part-time employee?

For part-time workers, employers should pay overtime if they either: 

  • Work longer than their Contract:  Part-time employees should receive overtime compensation if they work more than the maximum hours agreed upon in the contract.

  • Work anti-social hours:  This is overtime pay for hours worked outside of 9 am to 5 pm, usually on nights or weekends.

Does overtime pay affect annual leave?

For those employees who are accustomed to receiving overtime, sales commission, or bonuses, holiday pay will be affected by their additional working hours.

In 2017, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) made a decisive ruling concerning overtime and holiday pay. This ruling means that workers who consistently put in extra hours must be compensated accordingly when calculating their holiday pay. In other words, these additional hours must no longer go unnoticed or unpaid!

Useful Read: Holiday Accrual: Understanding Employee Entitlements and Time Off

Employers must legally include overtime in at least 4 weeks of their annual leave pay. Then, it's up to you whether to count this extra income towards the 1.6 weeks of a statutory holiday or issue a separate payment based on the basic salary rate!

When is overtime used?

There are three main circumstances of overtime: bank holidays, overtime resulting from special events (e.g., overtime due to Christmas shopping), and overtime due to overtime agreements between an employer and employee (typically overtime due to alternative shift patterns).

Bank Holidays

Employees may be required to work overtime on bank holidays due to increased demand from customers.

Special Events

Sometimes overtime is necessary due to seasonal events or spikes in demand. This overtime will generally be paid out at the overtime rate but could differ depending on the employer's policies.

Overtime Agreements

Some employers might have a set overtime agreement with their employees, allowing them to take on overtime in exchange for additional pay or benefits. In these cases, overtime rates may vary from the standard 1.5x rate.

Types of overtime

Here are some types:

Voluntary Overtime

Voluntary overtime is overtime that an employee often chooses to work to make more money or get ahead in their career. Employers are not mandated to provide overtime opportunities, and the employees have the right to refuse them without consequence.

However, this should never lead to any form of discrimination or bias toward those who choose not to partake in additional work hours.

Compulsory Overtime

Compulsory overtime occurs when an employee is required to work additional hours as part of their contractual agreement. This type of overtime requires the employer and employee to come to a mutual understanding before any overtime takes place in order for employees to be adequately compensated for their additional effort.

Non-Guaranteed Overtime

Non-guaranteed overtime is what employers offer when they are uncertain of the amount of work that needs to be done, yet an employee must still agree to it. A great example would be around certain times in a year when business is typically more active; although employers do know there will be heavier loads, they don't know how long, and until the said time comes, making non-guaranteed overtime mandatory for employees if needed.

Monitoring overtime hours

It's important that you monitor your overtime hours closely as an employee! Whether you're tracking it yourself with a spreadsheet or using time-tracking software, overtime pay is legally required and should always be paid out on time. 

For employers, overtime hours must be monitored to ensure that overtime is not being overused or forced upon employees. Employers are also legally responsible for providing overtime pay as well as tracking overtime hours with a suitable system. 

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Time off in Lieu (TOIL)

Time Off In Lieu (TOIL), or what is frequently referred to as "banked hours," is a compensation scheme that allows employers to reimburse employees for additional work with paid leave.

Essentially, this implies that the employee is willing to store their extra hours to use them for vacation later. Banked hours require employees to be paid at an hourly rate of 1.5 times more than what they would get if it was not overtime worked.

Benefits of Working Overtime?

There are a number of benefits for employees working overtime

  • Extra Income: Working overtime can provide an extra source of income, allowing employees to earn more money either on a consistent or one-time basis.

  • Career Advancement: Overtime can allow employees to work on special projects or tasks that could lead to career advancement and increased responsibility.

  • Additional Benefits: Some employers offer additional benefits for overtime worked, such as bonus pay, vacation days, or discounts in the company store.

Benefits of Overtime to the Business

Here are the benefits:

  • Flexible Workforce: Overtime allows employers to be flexible with their workforce and adapt to changing demands.
  • Deadlines: Employers can meet tight deadlines by having overtime workers available for urgent tasks.
  • Lower Cost: Hiring overtime staff is often cheaper than hiring additional full-time employees, as overtime staff may not receive the same benefits.

Disadvantages of overtime

  • Health and Safety issues: Working overtime can lead to stress, fatigue, and mental health issues if done too often.
  • Legal Issues: Employers must adhere to overtime regulations and pay overtime rates as set out in UK legislation. 
  • Loss of Productivity: Excessive overtime can lead to burnout, which can decrease an employee's productivity.
  • Absenteeism:  Employees missing work due to overtime-related fatigue or stress can lead to an increase in absenteeism

Useful Read: Stress Leave from work: Implications and Best Practices

  • Lower Productivity: Overworked Employees can become less productive, as overtime can lead to fatigue and burnout. 

Ways that companies can reduce the need for overtime work

  • Outsourcing: Companies can outsource certain elements of their business to freelancers or third-party providers to reduce the need for overtime work.

Useful Read: Outsourcing HR: A Strategic Approach to Managing Human Capital

  • Flexible Working: Employers can create flexible arrangements allowing employees to adjust their hours and work from home when needed.

  • Cross Training: Cross-training employees to take on different roles will reduce overtime requirements, as employees can cover more duties.

  • Paid Time Off: Companies should offer paid time off to encourage employees to take a break and recharge.

  • Automation: Automating certain processes can reduce overtime by freeing up resources for other tasks.


Overtime can be a great way to earn extra money, but it's important to know your rights and the rules surrounding overtime pay. In the UK, laws protect employees who work overtime, and these laws vary depending on whether you are a full or part-time employee.

If you're considering working overtime, make sure you understand how it will affect your annual leave entitlement, and speak to your employer about any concerns you may have. Overtime can be a great way to boost your earnings, but it's important to know your rights before working extra hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Overtime is usually calculated in the UK as 1.5 times the employee's normal hourly rate for any hours worked over 40 in a week.

  • There is no limit to the number of overtime hours you can work in the UK; however, employers are not allowed to force any employee to work overtime beyond reasonable and safe.

  • There are several benefits to working overtime, such as extra income, career advancement, additional benefits, and a flexible workforce for employers. However, overtime also has disadvantages, such as health and safety issues, legal implications, and lower productivity.

Topic: Overtime
Carin Vreede

Written by:

Carin Vreede

With years of experience in the HR field, Carin has a lot of experience with HR processes. As a content marketer, she translates this knowledge into engaging and informative content that helps companies optimize their HR processes and motivate and develop their employees.


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