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 say something specific 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, but in any event, your average basic pay (that is, your pay before taking into account any enhancements such as “time-and-a-half”), for each ‘pay reference period’, must be at least the National Minimum Wage.

Your ‘pay reference period’ will depend on your pay arrangements. For example, if you are paid daily, it will be a day, if you are paid weekly, it will be a week, and if you are paid monthly, it will be a month.

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.

You should be paid for all your overtime, but the practical reality is that for around five million workers each year, this is not the case. In 2017, UK workers gave their employers £31.2 billion of free labour, doing a grand total of two billion hours unpaid overtime. Try the TUC’s Unpaid Overtime Calculator to find out how much you are missing out on each year.

Every year in February, the TUC campaigns against excessive unpaid overtime with Work Your Proper Hours Day, to mark the fact that for the average worker, unpaid overtime is equivalent to their not being paid for any work they’ve done from the beginning of the year until that day.

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.