My employer wants me to work extra hours in excess of those set out in my contract of employment. Do I have to work them?

You are obliged to work the hours set out in your contract terms. Your contract may also contain an express term about overtime – for example, that "reasonable overtime may from time to time be required, in accordance with the needs of the business".

Your employer needs to have a clear policy in place about how overtime is requested, authorised and recorded, and about how overtime pay is calculated.

If you are an hourly paid worker, you must be paid for all overtime worked at the request of the employer. You should receive whatever is the contractual hourly rate for the extra hours worked, which must be at least the National Minimum Wage.

As an hourly-paid worker, you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for all the hours you are contracted to work. This includes, for example, time spent sleeping at work where being at the workplace (whether or not you are asleep) is one of your duties (such as a night watchman). It also includes travelling between assignments, unless there is enough time between each assignment to be able to travel back to your own home.

If you are a mobile worker (i.e. a worker with no fixed place of work, such as a care worker whose job involves travelling between the homes of different service users), time spent travelling to your first appointment of the day may also be working time for which you should be paid the national minimum wage, based on a new European ruling (see Federación de Servicios Privados del sindicato Comisiones obreras (CC.OO.) v Tyco).

If you are having problems with unwanted overtime, speak to your manager if you feel that you can. You should also take advice from your union if you have one. There may be others at your workplace in the same position as you, and a collective approach may be the best way forward. If you would like to become a member of a union but are unsure which one to join, use our Union Finder tool.

If overtime is interfering with your care arrangements – for example, because you have responsibility for young children or an elderly parent – your employer may be guilty of indirect discrimination by unreasonably insisting on the overtime.

If you find it difficult to work overtime hours due to a disability, your employer will owe a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to your work schedule at your request to accommodate this.

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.