Overtime: Everything You Need To Know

Overtime seems to sound like a pretty straightforward concept: it's based on the principle that employees will be paid an additional sum of money for working extra hours. It sounds simple enough, but in Canada the overtime rate kicks in at a different time depending on which province you're from. To complicate matters further, the overtime pay rate also changes by province.

All Canadian jurisdictions require that an employee be paid overtime for all hours worked beyond their standard work day or week. Overtime is usually calculated at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate of pay. So how come some companies find ways around this? You can protect yourself as an employee and make sure you are compensated for all of the hours you spend by knowing all the facts.

Every province has their own employment standards, and Alberta’s rules concerning overtime have these particular stipulations:

  • With some exceptions, employees in Alberta are to receive 1.5 times regular pay for working beyond eight hours in a day or 44 hours in a week.

  • Time off may be taken in lieu of overtime pay if there is a written agreement between you and the employer.

  • If yours is a compressed work week or you are paid in whole or in part through a commission structure, special rules determine how overtime is calculated.

Not all occupations and job classes are covered by overtime regulations. In some cases, “averaging agreements” adjust the standard by which overtime will be paid. An employer that has an averaging agreement must post it in the workplace. Make sure you understand your employer’s rules, and if you’re not sure, ask.

For salaried employees, it depends more on organizational policy and less on legislation. Some organizations allow salaried employees to bank time instead of being paid overtime. The law makes few distinctions about who qualifies. It’s commonly thought that only hourly workers are eligible. However, everyone qualifies even if on salary or commission, is technically owed compensation for extra hours worked, unless exempted by law.

About Those Exemptions…

If an employee has managerial responsibilities, they generally do not qualify for overtime. Neither do professions such as lawyer, dentist and architect.

Overtime Myths

1) Getting paid a fair and fixed salary eliminates overtime pay. Wrong. Most salaried employees are not required to formally record their time. Yet an employer is still responsible for calculating and paying non-managerial employees for extra hours that qualify.

2) An hourly worker can expect to get paid for every hour of overtime automatically. Untrue. Lots of unscrupulous employers hope staff will forget to put in for time and a half.

Employers cannot refuse to pay overtime rates and cannot force workers to work excessive hours, nor can they fire workers or have them deported if they refuse or complain about excessive work.

What To Do If You Think You Have Been Underpaid

You might feel pressured to keep quiet about not being paid overtime. You might worry about missing out on promotions or raises. There is an unfair and dangerous element to our work culture that says overtime is the way to get ahead, and that you’re not working hard enough if you’re ONLY putting in 40 hours a week. But you should be compensated for every hour you work, and you need to know about what your company’s policies are and how they compare with the laws in place to protect you. To stand up for yourself, document your hours and any related communications with management. What requests is your boss making? How much overtime are you putting in but not getting paid for?

Review your employment contract. Then speak to an employment lawyer for free or minimal cost. Most provincial law societies offer such a referral service for a ½ hour consult. You might qualify for legal aid or pro bono services.


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