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As a domestic worker, am I entitled to overtime pay from my employer? - Trevor Thomas

Trevor Thomas

Under the law in BC, a “domestic” is someone who’s hired to live and work in a private home to provide cooking, cleaning, child care, or other services. 

An employer and a domestic worker must have a signed, written contract. The contract must set out, among other things, the hours and days the domestic worker will work in a week, and the wage rate (which must be at least the minimum wage rate). 

If you work more hours than are set out in your employment contract, you must be paid for these extra hours. As well, you’re entitled to overtime rates if you work more than a certain number of hours in a day or week. Let me explain both of these points.

Hours of work

You are entitled to extra pay for any hours worked beyond those set out in your employment contract. As domestic workers live in their employer's home, the line between being "at work" and "not at work" is not always clear. If the employer asks the domestic worker to babysit or perform other duties outside of the number of hours in the contract, that time is work and must be paid. 

Overtime pay

Domestic workers are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than a certain number of hours. Both the number of hours worked in a day and the number of hours worked in a week must be looked at when calculating overtime. After working eight hours in a day a worker must be paid time-and-a-half for the next four hours worked, and double time for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in a day. 

A worker who works more than 40 hours in a week must be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours. (Note that only the first eight hours you work each day is counted towards the weekly total. Daily overtime is calculated separately.)

Next steps

If you haven’t been paid for the extra hours you’ve worked and overtime pay you’re owed, you have options. A first step is to discuss the problem with your employer. Explain the problem as best you can, and what you want the employer to do about it. If you’re nervous about approaching your employer and would like some help, consider reaching out to an agency that helps workers. The Migrant Workers Centre is a non-profit organization that provides legal information and advice to migrant workers, including domestics. 

If you aren’t able to resolve the problem with your employer, you can make a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch. (Note there's a time limit on what you can recover through a complaint. You're limited to wages during the 12 months before you bring your complaint.)