Is overtime compulsory?

Do employees have to consent to overtime?

In the food industry, overtime as a rule refers to work exceeding the maximum number of regular working hours as defined in the Working Time Act. In the case of shift work, weekly overtime consists of work performed in addition to the hours entered in the work schedule. Additional work, on the other hand, refers to work exceeding the agreed working hours of a part-time employee but not exceeding the maximum hours per period as defined in the Working Time Act.

Overtime always requires the employer’s initiative and the employee’s consent. The employee must consent to overtime separately for each occasion. In other words, you do not have to consent to overtime unless you want to. Conversely, you can consent to overtime whenever you want to.

As overtime must always be voluntary on the employee’s part, an employer cannot require an employee to commit to overtime. An employee also cannot contractually commit to working overtime when necessary, and they must agree to work overtime separately for each occasion. Employees may, however, consent to work overtime for the duration of a short period, if this is necessary for organizing the work.

Effective January 1, 2020, the old maximum amount of overtime, 138 hours per four months and 250 hours per calendar year, with an option to agree upon 80 hours of additional overtime per year, was abolished. Under the current Working Time Act, an employee’s working hours may not exceed an average of 48 hours a week over a period of four calendar months. In addition to regular working hours, this number includes overtime work, preparation and completion work, and emergency work.

Overtime must always be compensated, with rates depending on the type of overwork (i.e. daily, weekly, or period-based overtime) and the number of overtime hours worked. Minimum rates for overtime compensation are specified in the food industry collective agreements. Locally agreed overtime compensation rates may not be lower than what is specified in the industry’s collective agreements.

This question was answered by SEL’s Collective Bargaining Manager Erkki Rantamaa.