Are you entitled to overtime pay in BC?

If you are a non-union employee, the answer is probably yes - most employees in BC are entitled to overtime pay.  The following is some basic information about overtime pay.  For more details, refer to Part 4 of the Employment Standards Act.  

The rules about overtime apply to you unless you are:

  • A transportation industry worker;
  • An oil and gas industry worker;
  • A forestry worker;
  • A high tech worker;
  • A farm worker;
  • A manager; or
  • Exempt from the Act (most professionals are exempt – see the list).

Different overtime provisions apply to some of these employees, whereas managers, professionals, and high tech employees are not entitled to overtime pay at all under the Act.  There are specific rules about who is a "manager" - essentially you must have supervisory authority over the work of others, not just the title "manager".

For everyone else, overtime applies and is payable – even if you are on salary.

How much overtime pay are you entitled to have?

If you’re not one of those kinds of employees listed above, you’re entitled to be paid 1.5x your normal rate of pay (often called "time and a half")  for time that you work beyond eight hours in a day, and 2x your normal rate of pay (often called "double time") for time that you work beyond 12 hours in a day.

You’re also entitled to be paid time and a half when you work more than 40 hours in a week, even if you never work more than eight hours in a day.  So if you work eight hours a day Monday to Friday (40 hours total), but then also work on Saturday for five hours, you would be entitled to be paid those five hours at time and a half.

What’s more, you must have at least 32 hours in a row free from work, every week.  If you work during that 32-hour period, you’re entitled to be paid time and a half for that work.  So if you work seven days in a week, one of those days will be paid at time and a half – even if you worked less than 40 hours in total.  A week runs from Sunday through Saturday for determining overtime entitlement.

Other arrangements for receiving overtime pay

Your employer does not have the right to withhold, average, or “bank” overtime pay without your written consent.

Withholding overtime pay

If you are entitled to and have earned overtime pay, it is a breach of the Act for the employer not to pay it out to you. In our experience, in the case of salaried employees, it’s common for the employer not to record the employee's start and end times.

To ensure you are paid overtime for work you do beyond eight hours in a day, you should accurately record the time you start work, start and end your break or breaks, and end work, every day.  If you request to be paid overtime and the employer still refuses, you may bring a complaint to the Employment Standards Branch.  While the employer is not allowed to retaliate you because you bring a complaint to the Branch, many people don’t take this step because they think it will make the working environment uncomfortable - often they are correct.  For that reason, a respectful conversation with the employer, making reference to your accurately recorded times, may be the best first step.

Averaging agreements for overtime

The Act permits your employer to seek your consent to average your overtime hours.  This is commonly done in industries where employees work in intense periods, for example, four 12-hour shifts in a row, followed by four days off.  There are specific rules that apply to averaging agreements.

Banking overtime pay

Your employer cannot ask you to bank your overtime pay.  This is only for you to request from your employer.  You must request it in writing.  If the employer agrees to bank your overtime, instead of paying you overtime when you work longer than eight hours, the overtime hours are credited into a “bank” that can be paid out later.  The hours credited are banked at the same rate you earned them, for example:

  • You work 9 hours on Tuesday. Your employer will bank one hour at a rate of 1.5 times your usual hourly wage.
  • You work 14 hours on Wednesday. Your employer will bank two hours at a rate of twice your usual hourly wage.

You can ask the employer to pay out some or all of the banked hours, at any time.  At that time the employer must pay out the overtime to you.  You can receive the overtime either as wages or as paid time off.

What about breaks?

If you work more than five hours in a row, you are entitled to a 30-minute meal break.  The employer does not need to pay you for this break unless it requires you to keep working or be available for work during the break.  So although you may be at work from 9:00 to 5:00, you may only accrue 7.5 hours of working time.  You should be aware of this if you are considering whether you have worked overtime and whether to request overtime pay from your employer.

If you have questions about your rights as an employee or think your employer is withholding wages from you, please do not hesitate to call our office and speak with one of our lawyers.

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