Fact Checked

What is Mandatory Overtime?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory

Mandatory overtime is involuntary overtime in which the employer demands employees work hours above the standard work week. The typical work week often consists of 40 hours, and any hours beyond that are considered overtime. Some employees welcome the opportunity to volunteer to work extra hours to earn additional income. When employees are forced to work or else face job loss, then it’s no longer a voluntary act. National and regional laws often do not prohibit employers from demanding required overtime, except for young workers, such as those younger than age 16.

Employees can limit or avoid mandatory overtime in contractual agreements that they sign with employers. Employment law allows employers and employees to agree to the terms of the employment in a written contract, and one of those terms can pertain to work hour limits and overtime pay. For example, an employee can agree to work a standard work week and no more unless he or she voluntarily offers to do so or outright refuse required overtime that the employer might demand. Other contractual agreements include collective bargaining agreements between employers and unions. In those agreements, the contract pertains to all employees who are union members, and the employer may agree to waive any mandatory overtime requirements for union employees.

Laws typically do no prohibit a company from demanding mandatory overtime.
Laws typically do no prohibit a company from demanding mandatory overtime.

Employees who are not under contract are often at-will employees in some countries. That means that they can be fired at any time for any reason, except for discrimination. One of the reasons is sometimes due to an employee refusing overtime that is mandatory. The employer may fire the employee or demote him or her. Employers can force salaried employees to comply with mandatory overtime if they are exempt from receiving overtime pay, according to employment laws. These employees may have a legal course of action if working overtime becomes the norm, such as when the employer refuses to hire replacement workers.

An employer may demote or fire an employee for refusing mandatory overtime.
An employer may demote or fire an employee for refusing mandatory overtime.

Some regions have placed restrictions on mandatory overtime based on the profession in order to protect the public. For example, some regional laws limit mandatory overtime for nurses as protection for patients. The rationale is that an overworked and tired nurse is more likely to make mistakes in caring for patients and giving medications. Similar laws are being proposed on a national level in countries like the United States to protect patients from medical errors because of nurse fatigue. Other professions with similar issues include truck drivers, emergency workers, and law enforcement.

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Discussion Comments


I have a wonderful, fun job and my employees are part time. They love it and love everything they do here. As volunteers, they stayed here all day and night working, but now they are part time employees I have to kick them out after their official hours. They are very upset! There must be a way I can pay employees part time, but allow them to stay on to work on their fun projects. Help! We are a municipal department.


I work for the postal service. They routinely utilize their part time people for six days a week with fewer than six hours a day. In urban areas, a part time employee can become a regular full time employee within three to five years, easily. In rural areas, a part time employee will stay part time for 10-15 years, which happened to me.

For the first 11 years, I worked six days a week, including all holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas (they don't allow us to work many holidays anymore --hallelujah). For the past eight years, I have worked a full time regular job and seven of those years I have been made to work six days a week (40-46 hours). My question is how many years can they do this to me? I'm pooped.


By shying away from making national and regional laws expressly prohibiting employers from demanding mandatory overtime from employees against their will or face job loss, the government is guilty of breaching its citizens' rights under the charter.

When people are forced to work beyond their capacities, the consequences hit their health and well being and must be seen as a work place hazard.

I cannot find the common sense in mandating a person to work extra and be paid while there are many many more, within and outside the place of work who are willing to do the extra hours.


The factory I work at is like two factories within the same building. The other section knows that during the busy season there may be mandatory six or seven eight hour days a week, but they rotate through the shift list of who last had weekends off. They very seldom need a full crew.

In my section of the plant, all bets are off. We call it voluntary/mandatory overtime during the busy season. These are 12 hour shifts. It is left to us to work out among ourselves, based on our job positions, who will cover those shifts.

This so we don't have to work weekends. But in the busy season they have the option, and have used it regularly, to mandate Saturdays and even some Sundays. Plus, we get holiday pay, but only three in an entire year is guaranteed as a shutdown time. No one can ever plan to have the other holidays off. Nor even the weekend in which they fall.

The only way to get around it is by using a vacation day before the holiday. That's slim pickings because it is based on seniority.


There are not very many places that hire kids under 16, but my 15 year old son works at a restaurant.

Because of the labor laws, there are strict hours when someone under 16 years old can work. Once they turn 16, they don't have those limitations. I think this must be one reason companies don't like to higher younger kids.

The restaurant my son works at was very short handed, and most employees were required to work mandatory overtime. Once they get enough help hired, they went back to their regular hours, but my son was not affected by this at all.

There were many times he wished he could get some extra hours, but I kept telling him that time would come soon enough.


I have mandatory overtime from time to time, but it is usual seasonal, and I know ahead of time to expect it.

The longest stretch I had to work mandatory overtime was for 2 months. The extra money was nice, but at the end of those 2 months, I was ready for a vacation.

I think when people are pushed too often to work mandatory overtime, the production level is not what the company is hoping it will be.

There is a limit to how much one person can get done without getting burned out and making mistakes on the job. Extra money is always a nice incentive, but is not the answer every time.


I have heard that children working on farms have it rough. My cousin tells me that there are no laws limiting the amount of hours they can work.

Does anyone know if this is true? I wonder if my cousin might just be exaggerating.

I know that child labor laws state that in most professions, a kid has to be at least 12 to work. Also, they are limited to three hours during the week, when they have to go to school.

I am thinking that my cousin might be referring to the fact that his parents can make him do whatever they want, since they own the farm. He insists that it is perfectly legal for child farm workers to labor however long their bosses want, though.


@orangey03 – It must have been nice to have that option. I did not, and I missed out on a lot of holiday events because of mandatory overtime.

I work in a clothing store in the mall, and from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, we stay open later than usual. We normally get off at 9 p.m., but during this time, we had to work until midnight.

Several of my friends had their Christmas parties on Saturday nights, and even though the parties lasted for hours, by the time I got off work, everyone had gone home. If my boss had been willing to hire extra workers, I could have gone to at least one party, but she worked us to death, instead.


Mandatory overtime helped me pay off my hospital bill. I work in a furniture factory, and while other factories around here have been on the decline, we have seen business increase. So, I've been working twelve hour days and Saturday mornings.

Most people hated it, but to me, it was a gift from God. I had no idea how I was going to afford to pay for the appendix removal I had last year without going under. Suddenly, mandatory overtime appeared, and I started making enough money to cover everything.

Furniture factories pay their employees pretty well to begin with, so time and a half meant a ton of money for us. I was so happy that I didn't even care that I was missing out on social events and relaxation. This was exactly what I needed.


I worked at a busy newspaper years ago doing graphic design. At the time, we usually had more work than we could handle, and the ad designers racked up lots of overtime.

I didn't mind getting paid time and a half at all. However, staying an hour late and coming in two hours early can really wear on your mind and body after awhile.

At least we got to choose whether we wanted to come in early or work late. I didn't mind staying an extra hour, but I would have detested working any later, so I preferred to come in early as well. The other designer simply stayed later, so it worked out.


Mandatory overtime can be a real double edged sword. Its great when you want it and need the money and it's terrible when you are burnt out on your job or have weekend plans.

I used to work in a factory where we got called in for mandatory overtime all the time. Some guys loved it but I was always a little more conflicted. I wasn't supporting as many people as a lot of them so I wasn't as desperate for the money.

But I'll tell you, they have been laying people off and cutting hours for just about everyone lately. I would kill for some mandatory overtime right about now but I can't even get up to full time.


My parents ran a small shop that made custom commercial cabinetry and they had kind of an unusual work schedule that resulted in some mandatory overtime.

The guys in their shop would work 10 hour days for 4 days straight. At the end of 4 days they had 40 hours and often got three day weekends. But if the shop was busy they would be required to come in on Friday. Any time they worked on Friday was over 40 hours and therefore paid time and a half.

Most of the guys seemed to like the arrangement. The days were longer but the week was shorter and they often ended up getting overtime pay without feeling like they were working tons of extra hours.

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    • Laws typically do no prohibit a company from demanding mandatory overtime.
      By: Picture-Factory
      Laws typically do no prohibit a company from demanding mandatory overtime.
    • An employer may demote or fire an employee for refusing mandatory overtime.
      By: apops
      An employer may demote or fire an employee for refusing mandatory overtime.
    • Some professions, such as truck driving, have restrictions on mandatory overtime.
      By: arti om
      Some professions, such as truck driving, have restrictions on mandatory overtime.
    • Mandatory overtime occurs when employees have to work more than 40 hours a week.
      By: berc
      Mandatory overtime occurs when employees have to work more than 40 hours a week.