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I have a full-time job for my current employer and have been working here for 2 years. The problem is that I'm working a lot of hours, since I enjoy my profession a lot (I'm in software engineering/devops) and 40 hours of work is not enough for me. My productivity is no issue, people are saying I'm insanely efficient; I just want to work more to develop my skills and myself as well as improve my company. I'm working for a company with a size of about 200 employees and there is always a ton of work to do everywhere.

For the past 2 years I have found myself working all days long, including weekends, as I like seeing the impact I can have on the company and I feel like I have the ability to "change the world". It was all fair, but now I realize I've been spending my entire life for that company working my ass off when it turned out I'm a crazy one: most people work for their $X paycheck and go home after 8 hours.

The problem I have is that I want to work a lot. I want things to be great and stay focused on products in the current company but I don't want to do it for free anymore. I get paid about the same salary compared to people who only work their 40 hours while I put in a lot more time than they do.

I think that feeling is burning me out; I'm starting to feel bad about it. All I want is to get paid for the additional ~35 hours I'm working for the company's benefit (and profit) after hours and on weekends.

How can I resolve my problem? Is there any way I could talk to my employer and say - "Hey, I want to work here 1.5x full-time for ~1.5x the current salary. Is that fine"?

I don't want to look for a side job, I want to stay focused and do great things here like I am used to doing for the past 2 years now. My heart is still all in it, but can't stand the feeling that someone doing a regular 40 hours of work is getting paid the same as I am when I am working a huge amount of overtime.

Is this somehow solvable? Suggestions like "just do your job, work 40 hours and go home" don't satisfy me. I'm pretty much a workaholic and I really just want to do it, my life makes sense this way and it lets me develop my skills quickly.

Entire thread is in lines of: Do you know someone that was in the same situation and how he managed to figure that out? Is it often what happens to me or I'm just sick? How often people want to work that much?

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What is it about your company/job that makes you reluctant to ask for a raise? Sounds like you could justify it. – JeffO Mar 14 at 14:11
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As always this depends on your geography / local law. – Grzegorz Oledzki Mar 14 at 18:30
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As @GrzegorzOledzki implied, there are, potentially, legal issues depending on where the company is located, and, perhaps, related to your base salary (e.g. it may be required to be over set minimums). To answer your question (i.e. knowing that any answer other than "no, you may not do that" is legal), we need to know, at a minimum, your country/state (if in the USA). In at least some US states, we need to know the ballpark of your base salary. Despite your willingness to ignore legal issues, the company must not (possible fines/civil liability/jail time for managers/HR). – Makyen Mar 14 at 21:47
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"Is there any way I could talk to my employer and say - 'Hey, I want to work here 1.5x full-time for ~1.5x the current salary. Is that fine'?" - The answer to this is "yes, you can certainly ask." But be prepared for a negative response. – Brandin Mar 15 at 9:18
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This reads like a huge troll, to be honest. "most people work for their $X paycheck and go home after 8 hours": That's because most people agreed on a 8 hour contract; that does not imply they don't enjoy or have no motivation. May I ask you about your age? Could be that in a few years, you're going to suffer your first burn out. You're full of joy and drive at the moment, but your brain does need breaks. You don't feel like exhausting while exhausting, for sure. But buildings don't feel like cracking before they collapse, too. Don't forget you are just a biological system. – phresnel Mar 15 at 10:50

17 Answers 17

up vote 149 down vote accepted

You can make an impact programming and learning outside of your paid work.

There are many open source projects out there that are looking for talented individuals to help out.

Find something that resonates with you - something you believe in. Possibly something that you will learn from (a different language, framework or area of programming than in your day-to-day work).


Frankly, doing what you are doing now is not good for you and for the company, even if you think it is. You are burning yourself out - people need to a change of pace to recharge. There are studies showing that this is indeed an issue.

If you feel you truly can't do that and that you must continue doing what you are currently doing, you need to talk this over with your manager. Talk about the amount of time you are putting into your work, extra and over that required by the company and ask about the possibility of being compensated for it.

Don't be surprised if your manager does nothing - after all, you've been doing this without compensation for a long time, and the company has no incentive to change the status-quo.

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Thanks Oded. That's what I thought, it won't be easy to convince them to pay proper compensation. I feel that I made a big mistake working 2yrs that way. I've been thinking about OS either. If the deal with employer doesn't work out I'll definitely go for something open source related. I don't want to waste my skillset on playing games, I want to use myself and contribute to the world/great products and companies that need help. – Overworker Mar 14 at 11:15
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And I might add as a side note that being next to impossible to ask for additional compensation, try to contemplate changing jobs. Ask for a higher salary and work less. As other people say things have stabilized in a bad equlibrium for you and because of you. – dimitris mistriotis Mar 14 at 14:11
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@Overworker, while I think this is a great answer, and I don't think you should remove the check necessarily, I'd encourage you to hold off on accepting future answers so quickly. You never know what might pop up. – corsiKa Mar 14 at 15:35
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As a shameless plug, answering questions on Stack Overflow can be very educational and doesn't necessarily require as much commitment compared towards an open source project – Sayse Mar 14 at 20:05
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@Overworker: what's this "proper compensation" thing? YOU decided, on your own, to work extra hours. Why should your employer pay you additional money? You signed the contract which stated your salary. You understood that the money was being paid for a standard 8 hour day/40 hour week. Your employer is under no compulsion to pay you for hours they have not asked you to work. – Bob Jarvis Mar 16 at 11:29

Fact: You gave your employer a lot of your time for free, and they will not respect you one bit for it. They like the status quo, that you work your ass off without additional pay. They like that very much. It will be close to impossible to convince your current employer that this should be otherwise.

You will even have trouble to convince your employer that you should work only 40 hours a week and they will consider you a slacker if you try (while they will be really happy if your coworker works 42 hours instead of 40 in one week). You spoilt it for yourself.

Obviously you can try. You just go to your employer and say "Look, I have been working so much overtime over the last year, and I didn't get a penny of extra pay for it. I'm not happy with that situation. What can you do about it?" and see what their reaction is.

I'd say best to look for a different position that pays at least equally well, work your 40 hours, and set up a private project that you enjoy. For example, spend your time learning iOS or Android development, think of something that you think is missing, and create an app for that. There's plenty of things to learn, and that will keep you busy.

Alternatively, go out, find a girlfriend, and you will never have the problem of too much time ever again.

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I had a job where I worked my ass off. I didn't work off the clock (I was a cook), but I did give the job my all. After being repeatedly treated poorly I gave up and just started doing work that was just "good". At that point management started acting like I wasn't doing a poor job. Sure, I was no longer the best, but I knew I wasn't doing a bad job. I have always been respected as a hard worker in my other employments. My point is, when you do a great job, and then cut back, the delta does not go unrecognized. It is something you should be aware of. – David Baucum Mar 14 at 13:19
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"Alternatively, go out, find a girlfriend, and you will never have the problem of too much time ever again. ", meh can confirm :D – Illvminated Mar 14 at 15:34
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I'd change that last paragraph to "find a romantic partner". One can never be sure of another's romantic preferences, and this is the XXI century!!!! We are already in "the future". So start acting like it. – Mindwin Mar 14 at 19:30
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Girlfriend sounds soooooo much better than romantic partner -xoxo. Although not politically correct anymore :P – Hanky Panky Mar 15 at 9:11
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One can never be sure of another's romantic preferences. Not to mention that not all developers are male. I'm not. The OP doesn't state that they are, either. – Jane S Mar 15 at 10:37

heh, interesting! I've gone through the same! I worked about 2.5 years for a rather small company! I would stay till 21:00 or even more at office, and even do some stuff before going to sleep at home or even at the middle of night when I couldn't sleep. Even skipping my university classes to work more. (I know)

But I actually ruined everything instead of helping it, I'm not working there anymore. Just wasted my time. why was it a bad idea?

  • My employer got used to it and considered it a fact that I MUST continue working like that.
  • By ignoring other necessary personal affairs, I hurt myself and the pressure caused by that wouldn't let me concentrate anymore.
  • No fun and entertainment = depression !
  • You suddenly realize people don't respect you for your responsibility and hard work, instead they see you as an inferior and stupid person who is willing to make their life easier for free.
  • You think you're learning stuff by working more (partially true). Now I'm learning 10 times more stuff (Back then I was just wasting more time on repetitive job requirements).
  • I thought I'm helping the company to grow and therefore improving my place and rank, but instead I turned my manager and colleagues to be some lazy guys who never worried about their job anymore knowing I will always be there to fix it.

As a result my team instead of going forward, just collapsed, they started wasting their time and fooling around. And I think it was my fault:

  • I should have tried to let others get involved more and more in the project and keep them responsible by never fixing or working instead of them
  • I should have never Undervalued my extra time and effort and should have asked for extra payment from the first day, so my manager would have tried to pay more attention to keep the work going, so not to be forced to keep me working till late.
  • I could have learned a tone more if I used my extra time for learning new edge technologies instead of wasting it fixing my team's code (or other normal work stuff). Using that new stuff would have improved the project much more.

I suggest you the same thing, Instead of getting it worse to the extent to be forced to leave the place, Work like normal people and use your passion for learning instead of working more.

Even if your boss agrees to pay more, don't do it! Go out and have some fun and work on a open-source stuff.

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One case of a overworker person at a former company I worked at is that they overworked so much that everyone began dumping work on them. When the managers saw people idle, management began to dump work from other teams on the idle teamworkers, that in turn dumped more work on the overworkers. But soon another department offered a higher position to the overworker, and they changed departments. From one day to another, the rest of the team had to cope with the entire workload of the overworker, and to this day curse him. – Mindwin Mar 14 at 19:37
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@Mindwin: Their problem. Instead, though, they should be ashamed. – phresnel Mar 15 at 10:55

Most employers are not legally allowed to pay you for that much work on a consistent basis. If they were, they would bully their employees into burnout mode.

If you really are able to keep that kind of productivity up for sustained periods, and you love it, there's really only one option. Consider what you're saying in your question - you put in all these hours, but it's the company that benefits, no you. The only option that lets you reap those benefits is if you are the company.

Channel that productivity into something you truly love. Work your 8-5 like everyone else, and instead of putting those extra 20, 30, or 40 hours into a company that doesn't pay you, start your own. Build an app, make some websites, something to get the revenue flowing. When it's big enough, work on it full time and reap the true benefits of your productivity.

Alternative, work 8-5 like everyone else and sit on a boat for a few hours at night. There's some good books and a mai-tai that would love to say hi.

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Legally, they aren't allowed to see that you do work 60 hour weeks every week consistently. That would be a gross violation of labor laws... assuming someone reported them... As for not everyone wanting to start their own business, yeah, you're right. Not everyone does. But you can't have it both ways - either you "work for the man" and get less than you're worth, or you "are the man" and assume responsibility for the overhead of running the business. – corsiKa Mar 15 at 18:52
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In the US, at least, I'm not aware of any laws which limit the hours of salaried workers. It's very much a matter of convention and "accepted practice", and the argument is that if your employer makes you work too many hours you can just change jobs. (Not that easy, but that's the legal fiction). – Bob Jarvis Mar 16 at 11:37

Think seriously about working for yourself, you have reached the pinnacle of that job. You have become super efficient and you need to make it pay off.

I did this years ago and make more than 10 times the money. I was servicing 9 clients while the next best performing engineer was servicing 3 and most were servicing only 2. I did get regular pay rises but nothing compared to the potential income, and I wasn't going to be promoted since I was too valuable where I was, so I left.

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First you might want to ask yourself if it's viable to work ~75hrs/week in the long run.

Because, let's say that you did get a deal like you imagined (1,5*full time and 1,5*salary), and then don't manage do put up with the workload.

As for the possibility of doing this, I assume this is very dependant on your company's policies. So, you're probably better off asking them.

Good luck :)

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One way to make the management recognize the extra effort you're putting in for free is stop doing it. Start working 40 hours like your colleagues, and when your boss asks what's going on, explain your situation:

  • don't tell you want to work overtime, tell that you could do it if need be
  • don't promise to keep that pace (hint: you actually don't know how long you can keep up, really). Instead, say that you're not sure if you can do this forever.

The point is, your company should stop taking your extra effort for granted, and they should ask you to work overtime, not the other way around. Once they realize they need you to keep working like that, they'll certainly find a way to compensate you. If you ask for a raise / paid overtime etc. at your own initiative, they'll have much less motivation to deliver.

I know this advice smells like conflict, but that conflict is the very nature of your relationship with your employer (earn more vs. pay less). Don't expect your employer to give something to you willingly.

Also, consider that you may have to get involved in your personal life much more than you are now (think significant other, kids etc.) You'll have to limit your work to 40 hours at that point, which will result in the same conflict. Only by that time you'll have much more commitments, and the last thing you'll want will be a fight with your employer. It's much better to put everything straight now.

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-1, don't immediately reach for the most confrontational approach possible. – djechlin Mar 14 at 22:41
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@djechlin how is it confrontational to work the hours you're paid for? – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 15 at 7:42
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Doing it without warning is confrontational. He should discuss his hours with his manager, rather than letting him find out when problems start to arise. – Jørgen Fogh Mar 15 at 14:28

You say that you are a workaholic - that is an addiction. Like most addictions do not end up in a good way.

Working such long hours

  • Do you get enough rest?
  • Do you spend time with family and friends?
  • Do you eat properly?
  • One assumes you want a relationship? How will that work?
  • Is your health suffering? Burn out and then you are up a certain creek without a certain instrument.
  • Does the company/colleagues appreciate you doing all this for free.

Just stop doing it. Go cold turkey. Get a hobby

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You are committed, you are competent and you are in a position in life which allows you to work a lot (probably no kids at home). You are a software developer.

To me, this simply calls for starting your own company.

If that seems too scary or overwhelming become a freelancer. Technically there is not much of a difference (you are your own boss), but as a freelancer I think you'll (have to) make fewer strategic decisions and you'll probably have less book keeping to do. You'll possibly still be able to work for your present company as a freelancer!

In your own company you can work as much as you like, obviously. As a freelancer it depends a bit on the contract. In Germany where I live there are two basic types of freelancing contract: One could be called "consulting", payed by the hour; the other could be called "delivery based", where you get payed for finished work. The latter requires more definition work (what is to be done, when is it "ready", how are defects handled which are discovered later). With the latter contract it is more likely that you work remotely, and hence are completely free to schedule your work. With a "consulting" contract you may be closer to the customer who may not want you to be in the office at night etc.

But in both cases you will be able to charge by the hour or by the product, i.e. you'll be payed according to the work you did.

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In the US we call the two types of contract "time and materials" (you get payed for your time, and for any materials you need to supply to perform the work) and "fixed contract" (where you get paid a fixed amount of money to provide a pre-defined result). I once worked for a company where the owner had a basic rule: "NO FIXED CONTRACTS!". That was one of the very few profitable contracting companies I've ever worked for... :-) – Bob Jarvis Mar 16 at 11:49
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@Kilisi - what I've seen is a lot of companies trying to low-ball their bids because they're just so sure they need to get this contract, and if they do it doesn't matter how much they lose because they'll make it up on the T&M later. Woot. Seen a few companies go belly-up with that strategy. My former boss refused to do fixed contract, refused to low-ball, and refused to lose money on a job. He sold the company for a bunch of money to a big national firm - who subsequently ran it into a ground, doing exactly what the former owner said you shouldn't do. (blink) WHO KNEW?!? :-) – Bob Jarvis Mar 18 at 1:54

You already have some excellent answers above, but I'm going to make one additional observation/suggestion.

You have what sounds like a standard issue full time flat salary job. I've got one. Most people on this board have one. And judging by your statements you seem to be wanting to get paid more as a result.

Or rather, you don't want to be working those extra hours for free. It sounds like the same thing but the added wrinkle is that compensation comes in forms other than money.

I don't know what your financial situation or commitments are but it sounds like you'd be a pretty good fit for a startup culture. Crazy long hours, beyond-Puritan work ethic, deep personal investment in the company, it sounds like the sorts of things people in startups go through. Not to sound cliche but this is the sort of thing the guys on Shark Tank look for.

The downside though is that startups frequently pay a lot less than standard full time jobs for established companies, and there's almost never any such thing as overtime pay. You would likely be taking a very substantial pay cut to join one, and this is why you tend to see younger people flocking towards them (i.e., people who maybe haven't yet entered into a marriage/mortgage/family situation). The perk though is that you are frequently offered stop options or ownership in the company as a result (sometimes called "sweat equity"). Back in the day people would work for Microsoft for $30k/year in Seattle and stock options. When Microsoft hit it big they cashed out and became millionaires.

Of course that's assuming the startup succeeds. So it's a gamble. But it's an option.

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I worked for many years at over 70 hrs a week, and taking as few holidays as possible because I loved my job. I didn't get paid for the extra hours but I did get paid well. I probably would have kept doing it but the hours increased to 100 a week and I realised I was not seeing my family at all.

So I made a conscious decision to change how I work. Now I work around 45 hrs a week and volunteer about another 30 a week, coaching others, moderating Stack Exchange, sitting on various committees and generally making more of a difference to others than I ever did before.

The key takeaway though is to make sure you are doing what you enjoy. I now have at least 25 hrs a week more to spend with my family, I'm earning sufficient, and I feel I'm contributing to my industry and society as a whole. These are key personal goals for me.

For you - work at what you think is important. That's what matters at the end of the day.

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From what I read, you are just requesting what you deserve: proper compensation for your contribution to the company.

Congratulations for being extra-productive and passionate for your work, I would hire one like you.

But under most regulation, if not all (as soon as slavery is still forbidden) you have the legal right to request what you deserve. Your boss is at a serious jeopardy from the legal point of view, because, ultimately, and as last resort, you may sue him.

For office jobs, working overtime without any form of compensation (either a +15% bonus for each overtime hour or a forfait bonus at year end) may be a criminal offence. Requesting Allowing an employee (regulator assumes that if an employee is working extra, he's not doing that by his own initiative) to work overtime longer than a yearly quota of 250 hours is a criminal offence in my regulation.

I wouldn't threaten your boss. I would sit with him and discuss about your importance in the company, your successes and your constant effort. Your boss would be definitely a moron if he refuses to negotiate a raise that is proportional to the extra time. A professional like you can find a job in no time, possibly without slavery.

Some points for the conversation:

  • Mention that you stay at work because the company needs you (in no part of question I read "my boss asks me to stay at office...")
  • Say clearly, possibly with facts - this may be the most difficult part - that your productivity is greater than the people who leave a 6pm. Example of facts that don't involve other coworkers' witness include bug resolution statistics just to give an example

Eventually two possible results can be both positive for you: you can either get a permanent paycheck raise or your boss may choose to give you a one-time bonus, this is particularly true in some regulations where bonuses are taxed differently (or not at all) from salary.

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You may ask your manager for paid overtime (after explaining what you were doing). Not very likely it will work, but you could try. I know about decent companies where it was possible.

But now you might have problem scaling back. If you start working only 40 hours per week, your output will drop, and manager might not be happy about it. This drop in productivity might be tricky to explain. So you may want to talk to your manager about your heroics, burning out, and where to go from here. Maybe you need to plan your exit from current company to a different one.

Much better investment of your time is to contribute to some Open Source project - best the one you use at work. This way, you create portfolio of code and name recognition which you can take with you to your next job.

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So the core issue is that you have set super-high expectations and are no longer physically able to meet those. Changing expectations is really hard in an existing company.

My advice: leave this company, look for another one, perhaps in the same or related field. Ask your employer for a great to outstanding reference. Do not tell them the exact reason why you're leaving the company but instead state that it is due to a desire to get promoted faster in a different company/ want to work in a large international company to allow for travel/ to work closer to home and reduce commuting times/ etc.

At the new company, set an example for excellence within a 40-hour work week. This will show that while you're a productive employee, you perceive overtime as something that management needs to negotiate with you and not something that management can expect you.

Furthermore, read the book "Better Boundaries" to determine how to appropriately set boundaries without coming across as a free-loader, jackass, etc.

It is impossible to change the expectations that your management has of you, so take the easy route and change your management and set new expectations with them.

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The other answers has directly answered your question, however I would like to mention a different route which might achieve exactly what you want.

Let your employer know that you will not be investing as much unpaid overtime time as before. I suggest looking at the other answers on how to do that tactfully.

Then ask your employer if it is possible to start a project based on commission that is only worked on during after hours. That way employer does not need to worry about risk and you have the possibility of extra income.

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Ideas:

Start documenting what you use that takes up so much time.

Create documentation showing the need for such time.

At 75 hours, this is nearly the amount of hours typical of two full-time employees (@ 40 hours each). Have the business need for this much work clearly documented and identified, before you start seeking changes.

Only then will your new requests seem like they are only justified/reasonable.

Be nice to another human being on the planet. Let that person share in your joys of contributing to this company; them this person do that, by having you share the workload with this person.

If you find you're getting bored in life, consider making a change. This might mean changing which company you work for. Consider a company where you aren't just paid hourly. Maybe you get some quantifiable compensation. (For instance, business owners often put in a lot of hours.) Then if you overwork yourself, you can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you're not unfairly donating the benefits to someone else without fair compensation for yourself.

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As far as I know you are not allowed to have more than 40 hours in the same contract (does not include extra hours). However, if you wish to be paid for your extra hours you should tell them that. In this particular situation they definatly love that you work your ass of every day for free and they don't want to lose that. However, if you're going to work more and want them paid, you should give them an ultimatum.

Tell them you want your extra hours paid. By law they cant really specify that you will be working x amount of extra hours, so those would be flexible. If they flat out deny paying for your extra hours, you should really go back to 40 hours a week. Maybe they will come back to you and agree on the extra hours.

I don't know where you're from, but from where I'm from. An employer is not allowed to expect more than 40 hours a week from their employee. Considering someone who "only" works for 40 hours a slacker is ridiculous.

TL;DR: Talk to them, ask them to pay for extra hours from this point forward or next contract. Or go back to 40 hours/week.

Not giving them an ultimatum will simply let them walk over you. Alternatively, you could also study next to your work if you don't do extra hours.

edit: Seems like the maximum amount of hours you can have is 48, not 40. source: https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours/overview regardless... whether it's 40 or 48 doesn't matter in the context of this question :/

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@TheWanderingDevManager I edited this in the answer atm. I looked it up and it's not 40 but 48. source: gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours/overview . Also, I also said "as far as I know" which indicates uncertainty. saying it most likely true to my knowledge, but does not have to be certain. – Migz Mar 14 at 11:19
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@Migz that is a UK law which has no relevance anywhere else. Just guessing about facts, and caveating with 'as far as I know' helps no-one. – Midas Mar 14 at 12:41
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@Migz - I wouldn't have said it like Jake, but that was my point. You are talking about the European Working Time Directive, but even in the UK there are opt outs, and we can't even be sure the poster is in a country affected by it (By definition most of the World isn't limited like this), so you saying that could be seen as bad advice. Now saying that local or national laws may set a limit on the number of hours you can work IS a valid response, but you need to present it in the right way for the site's global audience. – The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 14 at 13:09
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@TheWanderingDevManager didn't mean it to come across as harsh, but I do think this answer is a bit misleading and confusing. Plus giving your employer an ultimatum is not good advice either. – Midas Mar 14 at 14:47
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Yes, but the UK already has exceptions:You may have to work more than 48 hours a week on average if you work in a job: where 24-hour staffing is required in the armed forces, emergency services or police in security and surveillance as a domestic servant in a private household as a seafarer, sea-fisherman or worker on vessels on inland waterways where working time is not measured and you’re in control, eg you’re a managing executive with control over your decisions – The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 14 at 16:01

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