Career & Education

Is HR robbing me of overtime?

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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Dear Career Advisor:

My work hours are from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. My HR Manager says overtime starts at 5:30 pm according to the law because of the one hour for lunch. I want to know if this is true or are they robbing me of an hour?

Yours truly,

Marcus

Dear Marcus:

Thank you for your question.

Your work arrangements appear to be very unusual. A few things are not clear, and without the availability of pertinent information we might make incorrect assumptions. For example, it would be useful to know the industry in which you are engaged to see if the type of work you do has any bearing on your work arrangements.

It is also not clear why your HR manager would say that your overtime pay would only begin one hour after the end of your workday if in your contractual arrangements it was agreed that you would be paid for a one-hour lunch break resulting in a 7-hour direct work shift. Additionally, should we take it that your contract says you will not be paid for lunch break, but through custom or the lack of diligence on the part of the employer you were being allowed one hour paid lunchtime during the eight hours of your workday? Or is it that you are contractually not allowed any break during the workday and therefore technically your “lunch time” begins at 4:30 pm?

There appears to be three issues connected with your situation, viz:

i. Lunch and/or tea breaks

ii. What constitutes a normal workday

iii. Entitlement for overtime pay

Lunch Break

Regarding the issue of lunchtime, you are entitled to a lunch interval of not less than 45 minutes during the normal workday or eight-hour shift. The law does not compel your employer to pay for lunch. Based on what your HR manager has said, it appears that for the purposes of pay, your lunch break is reckoned as at the end of the workday and that you are paid for it. Otherwise, there would be concern if you are not given a lunch break during the entire workday.

Normal Workday

Under the Minimum Wage Act, the standard workday consists of eight hours. Therefore, work done during your normal eight-hour shift would be calculated as single-time pay. It appears that for the purpose of calculating pay, your employer factors your workday as ending at 5:30 pm to account for the inclusion of your one-hour lunchbreak.

Overtime

You would have to exceed eight hours on any standard day and 40 hours in any one week of five standard days to be entitled to overtime pay. Based on the foregoing, unless otherwise agreed in your contract, in relation to the reckoning of overtime pay, it appears that your employer would not be required to make overtime payment in respect of work done during the normal eight-hour workday. It would appear that although your arrangements are unusual, you are not being robbed by your employer.

Further, we advise that you request a formal meeting with your HR manager to clarify things. Also, if it is not already the case, request to have your contract in writing. If you are still in doubt after these actions, please seek advice from the Ministry of Labour.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at careeradvisor@ncu.edu.jm


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