4

I work for a Eastern-European branch of a large company within IT industry. From time to time we benefit from paid by company courses (on-site or online) from various sources. Sometimes these courses may take up to one week and be notified about them quite late, so that a project plan might suffer when they occur.

My team includes a junior member that also benefits from this courses. When these occur I usually have a fair amount of overtime (about half of course length) so that I can also deal with day to day tasks. A typical example would be a 4 days course which would lead to about 12 hours overtime in that month. For an online course, this can also mean to use some time at home for that course.

I use to do this for many years, as it was an informal deal with team leaders ("the company provides the time and money for the course and you provide some of your time"). This was never an issue for me, because I felt I learnt something and I usually liked the projects I worked in.

This sounds like a fair deal for me, but I am wondering if I should also try this upon a junior member. Technically this is unpaid overtime and it does not seem right to ask for it.

Question: Is it appropriate to ask an employee to do some overtime when receiving courses?


This question is more about work ethics of asking for doing overtime due to some courses offered to some employees. The referenced one asks about motivating employees to take courses for mandatory certifications, courses that require much more effort from the employee.

  • 1
    Seems to me that a more concerning issue would be about the unpaid overtime, rather than you asking your employee about this... – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 15:38
  • @DarkCygnus - the unpaid overtime is clearly the big concern here. Officially, the company rules do not mention this, but in order to get things done I saw this kind of compromises being done now and then. Personally, I never saw a problem with this (I like what I do and I see this as win-win situation), but I am trying to get a larger perspective. – Alexei May 18 '18 at 15:42
  • yes, it's an interesting situation. Included an answer with some thoughts about it – DarkCygnus May 18 '18 at 15:54
  • Depending on how this is delivered, it may not be unpaid overtime. Are employees required to take the training or is it offered optionally? – cdkMoose May 18 '18 at 16:09
  • 2
    @Alexei, the correct thing to do is to plan better. You should account for the training time away in your project plans. If it comes up late, then adjust your deadline. It should never be necessary to work overtime because you attended a training class. – HLGEM May 18 '18 at 17:49
9

I see several different combinations here:

  • for an online course, we'll pay for it, and we ask you to take it on your own time, evenings and weekends. We're both making a contribution to raising your skills
  • for an instructor-led course, the days may be longer than normal for you, or there may be travel time to the course location, and we're not going to pay overtime to that. Again, we're both making a contribution to raising your skills, though in this case the company's contribution is much larger (paying for the regular workday spent learning.)
  • for any kind of training, we expect you to still meet your other deadlines so you'll probably have to work unpaid overtime to achieve that. I don't have any good explanation for this because I actually think it's a terrible thing to do.

In order for people to truly benefit from training they need to immerse themselves in it. Doing it at home when they're tired is suboptimal. Rushing through it so they can get an hour in on their other project is suboptimal. People declining training because they don't have free time to give to it at home is suboptimal. The company should put some thought into why they send people on training and what they're willing to invest in doing that. Then don't sabotage a $5000 investment by demanding 10 hours unpaid overtime from the person you're investing in. (And paying for it doesn't help. When people are on course, let them be on course and focus on learning.)

6

Is it appropriate to ask an employee to do some overtime when receiving courses?

It is almost never inappropriate to ask an employee to do some overtime. Of course, sometimes they may be unable to comply when asked.

However, it is also usually the norm (and the law) that those extra hours are remunerated.

As I said in comments, seems to me that you have a greater concern here, and that is that maybe it is time to make this deal less "informal", as the unpaid extra hours may be a problem eventually. This is something that someone in a managerial position (you it seems, perhaps) has to come up with. Some thoughts on this for you to consider:

  • Maybe you can include this in the contracts you give out, where you specify such agreement on take X extra hours for X course hours paid by the company.

  • You could also rearrange the courses so they don't conflict with the work hours, so employees don't have to compensate with overtime. Naturally, this means the courses will take place after work hours or weekends, and that is something you have to check with them (but given is "free" education after work hours doesn't seem that bad to me).

  • Allocate a specific day(s)/week where everybody takes their courses, and arrange your work schedules to sync for this "study week". This could also prove interesting, as it enables a more intensive study period, after you all can then resume normal activities.

2

Actually how you answer the question should only to some extent reflect your subjective opinion - in the countries I know there are precise legal requirements regulating that. So check whether that's the case in your country and make sure that you are acting legally.

In my country it wouldn't be legal to request employees to spend their private unpaid time doing work (obligatory training is work). It's related to both labor law and insurance (if you attend a compulsory training on a Saturday and get hurt during it, will it be a work accident and you would get more money from your company and have more rights or not?).

More subjectively, there are two kinds of trainings:

  • obligatory trainings, requested by the employer. These are to be taken during the work hours of course. And yes, if a training is considerably longer than the normal working hours, it should be counted as work, so the employees should, for example, receive time off for this additional time worked;

  • voluntary trainings, e.g. if the employee asked you to support financially their study or an additional training that will give them transferable skills not related or not only directly related to their job. These are courses which are financed by the employer but which aren't considered work. Then, even if you proposed the training to the employee, you can expect them to take it in their free time. But it needs to be voluntary and give them skills not only related to your business. And tell them directly it should be done in their free time.

  • There's a somewhat middle ground, company trainings that are not required for the current job but would be required in order for a promotion. Still work-related, but voluntary, and it's reasonable to consider the promotion as a reward. – MSalters May 20 '18 at 20:40
2

You should ensure that courses don't affect normal activity. You can consider education or courses the same as any other non-work activity. Say, a barbecue, party or team building.

If you say to your employees "There will be company paid party from 8am to 4pm this Friday, attendance mandatory." (which is a nice thing to do for your employees), you can't later argue

"Because we had party, our project is now 8 hours late and you will have to work unpaid overtime."

It's officially a jerk move. You're literally stealing from their free time. If it wasn't mandatory, your employees wouldn't have come to the barbecue/party/team building from the example and would have stayed working instead. So, pay them for that overtime!

Thing is, they are only working for you. They are working for you for the agreed hours as is in their contract. You do not own them. You do not get to interfere with their leisure time. They are offering you a service for a price. That service is labor, the price for that service is their salary. Anything extra you offer in addition to their salary is on you, a nice gesture, but the main relationship is work/labor and contracted salary.

1

You say it is a course. But is it a course that benefits only the company, or does it benefit the employee as well? If you can say with a straight face that this course is something that benefits the employee, something that a company might consider doing in his own time and paying themselves, and they save the money and are given time off at work, then it is Ok to ask for overtime. If it is a course that just benefits the company, then it's not Ok.

  • unless the course is a multi-day compliance course, which is never the case, I don't think that it is possible to be given education that is not beneficial? – bharal May 19 '18 at 8:33
  • If it is training that is only useful for this particular job, learning things that I cannot apply anywhere else, then no, it is not beneficial to me. – gnasher729 May 20 '18 at 16:22
  • hm. I'm not sure what training you've received that's given you this outlook - full disclosure, i've never received any offline training by a company - but how can learning be seen as bad? It still activates your brain, still gets you memorising things, still opens you to new thought that you can apply ... – bharal May 20 '18 at 16:44
-3

I don't see a problem with an employee working more than 40 hours a week.

This isn't unusual in most countries, it shows commitment to the company's cause. I also do not see a particular problem with not remunerating the employee for this extra time, (except as noted below).

Full-time employee's have pension, holidays and sick leave, and a suite of other payment structures to support them. A company training an employee is commendable - but you want the employee to be of some use.

From the sounds of it your company is fairly relaxed about overtime - a particular bane, interestingly, for international companies trying to setup in Eastern Europe. I don't think there is a particular problem with a few extra hours here and there when getting training, it will certainly not cause an employee exodus. Be aware that the region does not have a US work culture, and they will be displeased at continually long hours.

So feel free to press for the employee to work unpaid overtime (assuming it is legal, which it appears to be). If the employee pushes back then you will want to rethink

  1. the overtime
  2. the employee's promotion possibilities

In the first case, given you are paying for the course, if the employee is the type to not like overtime then they will possibly skip the course or work through the course, thus turning in sub-par work AND failing to learn fully from the course. This is pointless for you, so do not press the issue.

In the second case, while you would be recommended to let the employee not work extra hours, you would also be strongly recommended to limit the growth of said employee in the company. At the end of the day, they are showing you they're not invested in the projects the company does, and think that "going the extra mile" is something that the company does for them, and not vice versa. This is not what you want in your managerial/leadership staff.

Note: If the employee is an hourly or even a daily consultant (where 1 day = 8 hours) then you cannot expect unpaid overtime, as they are paid hourly so it doesn't make sense. You would just pay them 10*hourly rate for a 10 hour day.

  • Great and through answer. Thanks. I am talking about internal employees that usually work for the company for several years. The company HQ is from a Western country where work is very strictly regulated, so some rules are imported from there, even if the local branch has more than 15 years and way of doing things is influenced by the local culture. – Alexei May 19 '18 at 8:51
  • 1
    @Alexei Do I understand it correctly that you are proud that your local branch is exploiting employees although Western branches aren't and you treat is as a kind of "local touch"? – BigMadAndy May 19 '18 at 9:23
  • @Toss - no branch is exploiting the employees. Actually this is the most work-life balance oriented company I have worked for and one that tries to invest the most in its employees (soft + tech skills). There is a system that knows when we start/end the day and all extra-work requested by the manager is usually automatically paid. My question is about how to handle extraordinary cases of courses affecting the normal activity (one employee rarely benefits from more than 2-3 courses/year). – Alexei May 19 '18 at 9:31
  • 1
    @Alexei ensure that courses don't affect normal activity. You can consider education the same as any other activity. Say, a barbecue or team building. If you say to your employees "There will be company paid barbecue from 8am to 4pm this Friday, attendance mandatory", you can't later argue "Because we had barbecue, our project is 8 hours late and you will have to work unpaid overtime." It's officially a jerk move. You're literally stealing from their free time. If it wasn't mandatory, your employees wouldn't have come to the barbecue and would have stayed working instead. So, pay them. – jo1storm May 21 '18 at 13:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.