If I asked you whether your employer in Canada owed you overtime pay – would you know the answer?
It’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to encounter a PR professional who hasn’t worked overtime. And for those working in PR agencies, it’s ridiculously common to work overtime almost every day. Whether it’s answering emails on a Sunday or staying up until 10 pm to finish up a last-minute project.
But how many have been compensated for this overtime work? And how many even know that they deserve compensation?
Generally speaking, “overtime” is work done beyond the legal maximum hours. It gets complicated when you hone in on specific provinces, industries, and professions (we’ll get more into that later).
Now that we’ve covered what overtime means, ask yourself: have I received extra compensation for extra hours of work?
Some employers have clear standards and procedures for logging overtime hours and receiving compensation. Others are less responsible: such as a former employer of mine whose idea of “compensation” was letting us order dinner on the company dime if we were at the office past 6 pm. And some have no rules at all, with employees working overtime by personal choice or pressure and receiving nothing in return.
Lawsuits have been filed over this issue, exposing major companies for failing to track work hours and provide adequate compensation. So, don’t expect your employer to be on top of this issue and leave it in their hands to handle on your behalf.
This article will focus on overtime pay for entry-level PR professionals. Legal exemptions for managers and certain professions such as lawyers and taxi drivers won’t be covered.
Let’s explore the following:
- How do Canadian employees qualify for overtime pay?
- How much overtime pay should Canadian employees receive?
- What’s the procedure to claim overtime pay (or lieu time)?
- How remote work has complicated overtime claims
How do Canadian employees qualify for overtime pay?
Each province defines their workweek differently. First, find out what the maximum working hours are in your province or territory to understand if you’re consistently working over that amount.
For most provinces, the standard working hours are 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Work that goes beyond that amount is overtime.
But there are some organizations that define overtime at a number even lower than the provincial standard. Make sure to read your employee handbook or consult HR to know for sure. In general, consulting your HR department regarding procedures related to overtime is a must.
You also don’t need to be a full-time, salaried employee to qualify for overtime. It is also applicable for part-time and casual workers and students.
How much overtime pay should Canadian employees receive?
Work beyond the standard hours must be paid at 1 ½ times the employee’s regular wage rate (also known as “time and a half”).
Ontario will act as an example, where overtime pay is given after you’ve worked over 44 hours a week. Let’s do the math:
An employee with a regular rate of $20 an hour will have an overtime rate of $30 an hour (20 × 1.5 = 30). Therefore, the employee must be paid $30 an hour for every hour worked in excess.
Now, let’s say you’ve worked 50 hours that week. 50 – 44 = 6 hours of overtime. You must be paid your regular rate of $20/hour for 44 hours worked and the overtime rate of $30/hour for those 6 remaining hours.
What if you work on a fixed salary, as many PR professionals do? A fixed salary only compensates an employee for standard work hours. After 44 hours worked, the employee is entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked beyond that.
Some employers can instead compensate employees with paid time off work instead of overtime pay – sometimes called “banked” time or “time off in lieu.”
Employees may also be given the option to save or “bank” their overtime pay to be paid out later rather than during the pay period when they’re earned.
What’s the procedure to claim overtime pay (or lieu time)?
There are two types of agreements between employers and employees. The first is individual: between a single employee and an employer. The second is collective: between an employer and a designated group of employees (such as a union). Most of us have individual agreements.
It is vital to find out the terms of your agreement. Some organizations will give you an employee handbook with all their rules neatly laid out. Others will organize a chat between you and the HR representative during your first week.
Worst case scenario: there’s no HR department and orientation materials are scarce. So, you’ll have to scope out the information yourself, such as talking to other employees or your manager.
At your workplace, find out the answers to the following questions:
- How is overtime tracked?
- What kind of overtime compensation is given?
- What is the procedure to claim overtime compensation?
Some organizations require an open line of communication between employees and employers about when overtime work is going to happen and pre-approval is given. So, if you know you’re going to work 10 extra hours that week, you need to alert your manager, HR director or whoever gives approval, in advance. Without pre-approval, even if overtime was worked, you may not be able to claim it.
Other times, your employer will tell you in advance how you will be compensated for overtime work. If you’ve worked the entire day and then have to go to an event in the evening, your manager could give you the following day off. This is because of the “11-hour rule” – an employee must have at least 11 consecutive hours free from performing work each day.
Most large and mid-size organizations use HR software that tracks your pay, vacation time, and similarly, any overtime worked. This software is usually the place you would log how much overtime you have worked and compensation is automatically calculated.
How remote work has complicated overtime claims
Even as offices have reopened at this stage in the COVID-19 recovery, many professionals continue to work from home at least some of the time.
Back in the office, it was simple to show you were working late because even after the sun had already set, you were still glued to your computer. Maybe your boss was also still at the office and could clearly see you were working overtime alongside them.
But nowadays, claiming overtime while working from home is heavily reliant on “trust”. If you tell your manager you’re working overtime, even if it’s in your PJs, they should trust that you’re being honest. But some don’t.
If you work overtime and you’re at home, you should be just as entitled to compensation. In fact, some people are working more overtime now than when they were in the office full-time. A 2020 study by Robert Half showed 55% of remote workers worked on weekends and 35% worked more than 8 hours a day.
If your manager is reluctant to let you claim overtime, have them describe the expectations you need to meet for the overtime to be accepted. Maybe they will want you to submit a detailed timesheet, describing every task you did during each hour of overtime. Work alongside them to come up with a reasonable way to prove that you did work overtime – again, even if you were sending out emails from your bed. It still counts as working, regardless of where you are.
Technological advances have allowed us to be always updated with the latest happenings at work and in contact with our colleagues and managers. We see those email notifications rolling in and there’s an urge to respond and seem like you are always present. But this is taking a toll on workers, and COVID-19 exacerbated the problem.
In October 2021, the Ontario government introduced legislation that would force some employers to develop policies whereby employees could unplug from work. That means no more answering emails or Slack messages after hours. In countries like France, these policies already exist.
Here is what needs to be said: constantly working overtime is not normal. It isn’t good for you. Every person needs time to relax and recharge. But if you are in an unfortunate situation where overtime is seemingly unavoidable, you should at least be compensated accordingly.
Working overtime as a PR professional is so ubiquitous, many professionals don’t they should receive anything for doing so. And broaching the subject with your colleagues and managers, who may also work long hours without complaint, can feel awkward.
But you need to look out for yourself and your well-being, first and foremost. Set aside the social pressures of staying quiet and instead, rely on the law.