What constitutes overtime worked?

What happens when an employee hangs around work after quitting time to help a co-worker?
By Stuart Rudner
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 09/04/2013

Question: If an employee hangs around in the workplace after her shift and helps a co-worker without approval from the employer, is overtime pay owed? What’s the overtime threshold between being physically present in the workplace and doing any work?

Answer: Many jurisdictions in Canada operate on the basis that any overtime worked must be compensated, even if it was not requested, directed or approved by the employer. This can come as an unwelcome surprise to an employer that finds itself unintentionally on the hook for overtime pay. This is why I often advise employers to adopt a strict policy that overtime cannot be worked unless authorized and, in addition, to impose discipline on employees that insist on breaching this policy and working overtime without authorization. While this may seem to be an odd approach, imposing such discipline can be the only way to prevent unnecessary overtime.

That said, an employee must truly be working in order to be entitled to overtime pay. This does not include “hanging around” and offering occasional assistance to a friend that is still working. As the question suggests, merely being physically present is not enough; the employee must be actively working.