How many hours a week are you allowed to work ? And how many hours does your boss ask you to work. Is s/he asking you to do something you shouldn’t do ? or something that could possibly be illegal ? There are alot of myths about how many hours your employer is allowed to ask you to work every week. And what about whether you should be paid extra for working on Sundays or overtime ? All of these things are covered in this article.
Note: Working more that legal limit a day or week could have potential issues with insurance should you perhaps have an accident in work, so pay attention !
The average working week is not allowed to exceed 48 hours of “working time” a week. This might sound strange, but breaks are not counted in this 48 hours of work. This is what has been outlined in Organisation and Working Time Act 1997 . If your employer is asking you to work longer hours than this, then you need to refer them to this act. And if necessary take further steps.
One common mistake is that people calculate this 48 in either a 7 day period, or if they sometimes work that many hours. In the above mentioned act it outlines that this average should be calculated in 3 different ways.
- The average should be taken over 4 months for most business areas.
- The average should be taken over 6 months for security personal, prison officers, workers at airports or docks, staff in hospitals, seasonal workers who have peaks (i.e. Christmas production at a factory) and farmers and other agricultural workers.
- The average can be taken over 12 months when there has been a special agreement approved by Labour Courts. This has to be a consensual agreement between employers and employees.
Your employer should also keep detailed records of your working hours should you need to calculate your average hours.
Exceptions to the Rule
Of course with every Irish employment rule there seems to be an exception, and this one is no different. If you are self-employed or you work for the government (Gardaí and defense forces) the above rule does not apply. This rule also does not apply to interning or trainee doctors or employees at sea (fisheries, ferry and cruise-lines workers). If you are a trainee doctor you should read this in the Irish Statute Book.
Rules for Sunday work
If you are scheduled to work on Sundays, you need to have an agreement with your employer about extra renumeration for your work. If there is no allowance for working on a Sunday, then there needs to one of the following as a type of compensation :
- a type of reasonable compensation.
- a reasonable compensation in time off in lieu.
In both cases it is mentioned “reasonable” and this is something that needs to be clarified between employee and employer.
Rules for working overtime
The definition of overtime is stated to be work that is performed outside your normal working hours. Employers are not required to pay you extra for overtime, but they must at least maintain your current wage level.
Talk to a professional
The world of employment law can be a mine field, and there are many exceptions to these rules and rules for specific industries (and for certain areas in Ireland. See this decision from the Labour Court which covers hairdressers in Cork). A Registered Employment Agreements (REA’s) might exist for your industry which would cover you. If you have a serious question about your working hours and conditions of employment you should contact the NERA (National Employments Rights Authority) or an employment lawyer.