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Hours of Work and Working Overtime - Common questions

Common questions

Is an employer legally required to provide coffee breaks?

No. But if you are given coffee breaks, you must be paid for that time. The employer can determine the length of the break. 

Does my employer have to pay me overtime if I work on the weekend?

It depends. Your employment contract may set out the framework around overtime. It may spell out how working on the weekend is treated. If it doesn’t, and if you’re covered under BC’s employment standards law, you’re entitled to overtime if you work more hours than the daily or weekly threshold. See the “What you should know” 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. 

What are the rules around split shifts?

Under BC’s employment standards law, an employer must ensure that an employee working a split shift completes the shift within 12 hours of starting work. For example, if someone works a 9 am to 1 pm first part of their shift, and the second part starts at 5pm, it must finish by 9 pm (12 hours from when they started work). Here’s the “split shifts” rule.

What is an averaging agreement?

To allow some flexibility in the workplace, BC’s employment standards law allows an employer and a worker to make an averaging agreement. Under this law, 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.

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. 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.