Am I entitled to be paid overtime and, if so, how is it recorded and claimed?

Whether you are entitled to be paid for overtime, and at what rate, is something that is agreed between you and your employer. If there is an agreement, it becomes an express term in the contract of employment. The written statement of particulars, which you should be given within two months of starting work, should tell you how your pay will be calculated.

A collective agreement between the union and employer may specify the overtime payable.

It is usual for employees on an hourly rate to be paid for overtime worked. Where payment is made for overtime, the hours worked should be recorded by the employer and payment due calculated in accordance with the contract of employment at the agreed rate, i.e. plain time or premium rate. Payment is usually made a week or month in arrears.

Many workers, particularly during an economic downturn when jobs may be more scarce, feel under pressure to work extra hours for free. The TUC calculates that in excess of five million people regularly work overtime unpaid, and that the average person gives two working months of free labour to his or her employer every year.

You can work out the value of your unpaid overtime using the WorkSMART overtime calculator. Every year, unions mark Work your proper hours day, which is the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year, and starts earning for themselves. We think that's a day worth celebrating.

Many unions campaign over unpaid hours. If you are not already a union member and there is too much unpaid overtime where you work, use the workSMART union finder tool to find the right union for you, so you can join with colleagues to raise awareness and try to tackle the issue collectively.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.