My husband’s employer makes him work overtime and never pays him for the extra time. Is this legal?

He works at a non-unionized manufacturing company and earns an annual salary. Can he say no to working overtime if they won't pay him? Would they be able to fire him for this?

Esme

Esme

Castlegar, BC

Let's deal with this in two parts: first, your husband's entitlement to overtime pay, and then his rights to refuse to work overtime.

Entitlement to overtime pay

There are a few factors to consider here. First, your husband’s rights depend on whether he’s covered by BC’s main employment standards law. This law, which sets out rules around overtime pay, applies to “employees.” This covers most workers in the province, but not all. Check out this guidance to learn who’s covered.

A second factor is what your husband’s employment contract says. (All workers have an employment contract, even if nothing’s in writing.) Typically, it’ll describe his regular hours of work and his entitlement to overtime. If he’s covered by employment standards law, these contractual rights may be greater than what the law provides. But — and this is important — they can’t be any less than the minimum standards required by law.

Under employment standards law, employees are entitled to overtime pay if they work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. (That is, unless they’re working under an averaging agreement.) After a worker has worked more than eight hours in a day, they’re entitled to time-and-a-half for the next four hours worked. After working 12 hours in a day, they’re entitled to double their regular wage for any additional hours. Similarly, a worker is entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked beyond 40 in the week. To calculate weekly overtime, only the first eight hours worked in each day are counted, regardless of the hours worked on any day of the week.

Refusing to work overtime

If your husband isn’t being paid the overtime wages he’s entitled to, either under employment standards law or his contract, he’s within his rights to decline the extra work. It’s important to note that salaried workers are entitled to overtime pay, despite what his employer may say. Here are some options to deal with the problem.

In BC, employers are prohibited from penalizing a worker for asserting their rights under employment standards law. So the fact that your husband refused extra work wouldn't be grounds to fire him for just cause. However, his employer may fire him if they give him proper notice or severance pay.

Check out this guidance on hours of work and overtime for more on this topic.

Trevor Thomas

Trevor Thomas

Ascent Employment Law
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in November 2023

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