You've just started a new job. Your boss tells you that you only get 15 minutes for lunch. Then they ask you to stay late. You end up working 11 hours, and your boss says it’s the company’s policy not to pay overtime wages. You wonder: Is all of this legal? Learn your rights when it comes to your hours of work and working overtime.
The main legislation in BC that protects workers may not apply to you
The main law in BC protecting workers sets out rules for hours of work and overtime. Some types of workers aren’t covered by this law. The law doesn’t apply to people who are:
- in licensed professions, such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers and realtors
- in industries regulated by the federal government (for example, banks and airlines)
- in certain government incentive programs while receiving income assistance, disability benefits or Employment Insurance
- secondary-school students working at their school or in work-study programs
- primary- or secondary-school students working 15 hours or less a week as newspaper carriers
As well, the parts of this law dealing with hours of work and overtime don't apply to certain other types of workers, such as teachers, fire fighters, live-in home support workers, and university instructors.
In the BC law protecting workers, the parts dealing with hours of work and overtime don't apply to managers. As a result, managers aren’t eligible for overtime pay. Some employers try to use this rule to avoid having to pay overtime. Just because your employer calls you a “manager” doesn’t mean you’re automatically ineligible for overtime pay. It’s the nature of your job that makes you a manager, not your job title.
If you work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week
“I was routinely working 10-, sometimes 11-hour days. My boss continued paying me at my regular wage. Then I spoke with a colleague who told me I should be getting overtime pay. I brought it up with my boss. He agreed to pay me the overtime wages I’d earned. Now I have more of an incentive to work later hours if I need to.”
– Georgia, Kelowna
Under the law in BC, you’re entitled to overtime wages if you work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. (There is one exception: if you agree to average your hours. This is explained below.)
It’s a good idea to keep track of the hours you work, including overtime. That way you can compare your record to what your pay stub says. A good way to do this is to send yourself an email at the end of every week with the hours you worked that week. Tracking your hours will strengthen your case if there’s any dispute.
After you’ve worked eight hours in a day, your employer must pay you time-and-a-half — that is, one-and-a-half times your regular wage — for the next four hours worked. For example, say your wage is $16 per hour and you work 10 hours in one day. You receive your regular wage for the first eight hours. But for the additional two hours, you’re paid $24 per hour.
After working 12 hours in a day, your employer must pay you double your regular wage for any additional hours worked. Continuing the example above, say you work 14 hours in one day. You receive your regular wage for the first eight hours. For the next four hours, you’re owed $24 per hour. For the two hours after that it’s $32 per hour.
The rules for daily overtime apply even if you work less than 40 hours during the week.
If you work more than 40 hours in a week, your employer must pay you time-and-a-half after 40 hours. However, only the first eight hours you work each day is counted towards the weekly total. (The daily overtime is calculated separately.)
For example, say you work eight hours each day, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, you work three more hours. Your weekly total is 43 hours. You receive your regular wage ($16 per hour) for the first 40 hours. For the extra three hours, you earn $24 per hour.
The rules for weekly overtime apply even if you work less than eight hours each day.
You can choose to average your hours of work
To allow some flexibility in the workplace, the law in BC allows an employer and worker to make an averaging agreement. They can agree to average the worker’s hours over a period of one to four weeks, avoiding overtime pay that would otherwise be owed. A worker may agree to work up to 12 hours in a day, averaging 40 hours in a week, without being paid overtime.
Under an averaging agreement, a worker can be scheduled to work more than 40 hours in a particular week or more than 8 hours on a particular day. However, over the period of the agreement, the hours scheduled must not average more than 40 hours per week.
The purpose of an averaging agreement is to minimize the amount of overtime pay a worker is legally entitled to. You are not required to agree to an averaging agreement. However, your employer can decline to schedule you for overtime hours if you do not enter into the agreement.
There are requirements for a valid averaging agreement
To be valid, an averaging agreement must be in writing and specify:
- the number of weeks (one to four) over which hours will be averaged
- the work schedule for each day covered by the agreement
- the number of times the agreement can be repeated
- a start and end date for the agreement
You and your employer must sign the agreement before the start date. And you must get a copy before the agreement can take effect.
How overtime is calculated under an averaging agreement
If you have an averaging agreement and you work more than the scheduled hours in a day, you’re entitled to overtime pay for any extra time worked over eight hours. Your employer must pay you one-and-a-half times your regular wage for the extra time worked outside of the schedule. They must pay you double your regular wage for any time worked over 12 hours in a day.
For example, say you earn $16 per hour. Under your averaging agreement, you’re scheduled to work a 10-hour shift. You end up working 12 hours. You’re entitled to the one-and-a-half times overtime rate of $24 per hour for the extra two hours you worked.
As well, you’re entitled to overtime pay if you work more than an average of 40 hours per week in the period covered by your averaging agreement. Your employer must pay you one-and-a-half times your regular wage for the time over 40 hours.
For example, say your averaging agreement sets out four 10-hour shifts per week (Monday to Thursday). Your boss calls you in on Saturday, and you end up working an extra four hours. For those additional hours you’re owed the one-and-a-half times overtime rate of $24 per hour because those hours are outside the averaging agreement and exceed 40 hours per week.
You can ask to bank your overtime wages
Under BC law, your employer can — if you ask in writing — create a time bank for your overtime wages. This can only be done at your request. Your employer cannot require you to bank your overtime. Nor is your employer required to create a time bank. They can turn down your request and instead opt to pay your overtime wages in the usual way.
If you have a time bank
If you and your employer agree to create a time bank, then you can ask your employer (at any time) to:
- pay you all or part of the overtime wages you have stored in the bank, or
- use the stored overtime wages to take time off with pay (at a time agreed between you and your employer), or
- close the time bank and have all of the stored overtime wages paid to you.
If you use stored overtime wages to take time off, you are entitled to time off at the same rate as your overtime pay. For example, if you worked one hour of overtime and store it in your overtime bank, you are entitled to 1.5 hours of paid time off.
Closing your time bank
You can ask your employer to close your time bank at any time. Your employer can also close your time bank, but they must give you one month’s written notice. If they close your time bank, your employer must do one of the following within six months:
- pay you all of the overtime wages credited to the time bank,
- allow you to use the credited wages to take time off with pay, or
- some combination of the above two options.
Conflicts between the records of an employer and the claims of a worker regarding overtime hours worked are a common workplace problem. Consider keeping a personal log of the regular and overtime hours you work.
If you're required to work a split shift
Under BC law, if you are required to work a split shift, your employer must ensure you complete the second part of the shift within 12 hours of starting work. For example, if you work a 9 am to 1 pm first part of your shift, and the second part starts at 5pm, it must finish by 9 pm (12 hours from when you started work).
You’re entitled to meal breaks
Under the law in BC, your employer must make sure you don’t work more than five consecutive hours without a meal break. Each meal break must be at least half an hour long.
Your employer needn’t pay you for a meal break. However, if you’re asked to work — or be available to work — during a meal break, your employer must count this as time worked and pay you for it.
Your employer isn’t required to give you any additional breaks (for example, coffee breaks).
Your employer must pay you for a minimum of two hours
Under BC law, if you report for work, your employer must pay you for at least two hours at your regular wage even if you work less than that. If you report for work and you’re scheduled to work for more than eight hours, your employer must pay you for at least four hours.
If your work stops for a reason beyond your employer’s control (for example, bad weather conditions) your employer must pay you for two hours or actual time worked, whichever is greater.
You’re only entitled to be paid for time actually worked, even if it was less than two hours, if:
- you are unfit to work, or
- you violate the general health and safety rules of the workplace.
You’re entitled to have time free from work
Under BC law, your employer must give you at least 32 consecutive hours free from work each week. If you work during this period, you must be paid one-and-a-half times your regular wage for the hours worked.
If you work seven days a week, your employer must likewise pay you time-and-a-half for one of those days. This is the case even if you work fewer than 40 hours throughout the week. Your employer can choose to pay you time-and-a-half on the day you worked the fewest hours.
You’re also entitled to have eight hours off between shifts, unless you’re required to work due to an emergency.
Your employer must not require you to work — directly or indirectly — ”excessive” hours, or hours that are detrimental to your health or safety. Let your employer know if the amount you’re working is having negative effects on your health.
Step 1. Discuss the situation with your employer
If you don’t think you received the overtime pay you’re entitled to, first bring up the issue with your employer. Compare your own record of the hours you worked with theirs. Ask them to explain how they calculated your overtime pay.
Step 2. Start a claim with the Employment Standards Branch
If you can’t solve the problem directly with your employer, you can bring your complaint to the provincial government. The Employment Standards Branch is the office responsible for administering the legislation that protects employees in the province. For the steps to take to file a claim, see our guidance on what to do if your employer hasn’t paid you, under the “Deal with the problem” section.
Is my employer legally required to give me coffee breaks?
No. But if you are given coffee breaks, you must be paid for that time. Your employer can decide the length of the break.
Does my employer have to pay me overtime if I work on the weekend?
Not necessarily. You’re entitled to overtime only if you work more than the daily or weekly limit — or if you work more than the approved hours in an averaging agreement. See the “Understand your legal rights” section above.
Is time spent getting to and from a worksite considered to be work?
Normally, no. The trip from home to work is considered to be a commute. In other words, no work is done regardless of who supplies the vehicle.
The trip becomes work if you’re providing a service to your employer. For example, if you’re bringing tools or equipment that your employer provided to the worksite. The trip may also be work if you’re picking up other workers and bringing them to the worksite.
The Employment Standards Branch deals with complaints if your employer hasn’t paid you the overtime wages you’re entitled to.
Employment and Social Development Canada can help you bring a claim against your employer if you work in a federally regulated industry.