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  3. Rosetta & Overtime – How Can Employers Stay Compliant If Staff Work Long Hours?

As I write this, the Philae probe of the Rosetta spacecraft is making its way down to the surface of the inspiringly-named comet 67P, and we’re sure that some of the team at ESA have been working long into the night to make the crucial decision as to when they should separate the craft.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about take a look here:

In situations like this long hours are sometimes par for the course, and I’m sure that if it was necessary for them to do so it’s something that the scientists and other team members of ESA would have been happy with – especially for something this momentous. But what happens in normal businesses?

Working time regulations

If it is absolutely necessary for a business to keep staff on for an extraordinary amount of overtime, then there are certain exceptions that are made in the working time regulations – although as always some specific rules are applied.

You can only ask staff to work more than an average of 48 hours per week if they have opted out of the regulations, and you should be aware that they can cancel their opt out at any time as long as they give at least 7 days notice.

Night workers also have their own set of rules, including a limit of working an average of eight hours for every 24 hour period, but this average can be calculated over a 17 week period- or longer if agreed by staff.  Night workers are also entitled to regular health assessments too.

When they don’t clock off at their standard time, and work through what would usually be their rest period, an employee is also entitled to receive what is called ‘compensatory rest’. This might sound strange, after all it would appear to be pretty weak compensation in any other situation, but it essentially means that they can (in most cases) take off the same amount of time to rest as they have missed. In principle, you should give 90 hours of rest per week.

Overtime & holiday pay

There’s been a fair bit in the news recently about overtime and the calculation of holiday pay. In this instance the ruling would have no effect, as here we’re talking about what is basically unusual overtime. They wouldn’t be expected to stay each and every night to monitor everything so closely, if they did have to work longer at this crucial stage of the Rosetta mission.

It also doesn’t take into account voluntary overtime, as mentioned above we’re sure some of the passionate team at ESA would have stayed just to be a part of this historic event. Both this and irregular overtime shouldn’t have any part in the calculation of an employee’s holiday pay.

However, if it was something that you regularly ask members of your team to do, it might be worth taking some steps to prevent the recent ruling becoming an issue for you, this may include:

1) Paying all leave at a rate that is equal to the average of relevant pay for the previous 12 weeks.

2) Implementing a 2-tier approach to calculating holiday pay entitlement, e.g. one method for up to 20 days, then a different method thereafter (the ruling only applies to the first 20 days of holiday).

3) Paying an additional percentage of all non-guaranteed overtime undertaken by the employee that is reflective of their statutory annual leave entitlement. This would need to implemented carefully.

In the meantime, best of luck to the team for the Rosetta mission. Everyone here at citrusHR hopes that all the long hours that they have worked on it will be entirely worth it, and working out holiday pay will be the last thing on their minds!

If you want more support with managing your employees, but don’t want a full time HR team, why not get in touch with us today and see how we can help?


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