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In an employment contract it states the minimum number of hours which is 37.5 which appears to be the standard, however it also states that some flexibility is necessary and from time to time the employee may be expected to work additional hours without compensation (overtime or time off in lieu). That these could include working outside normal hours and on weekends and public holiday, and that they may be required to work more than 48 hours per week.

Within the UK as I understand, 48 hours per week is the maximum unless the employee signs an Opt-Out.

I would like to know if this is standard within an employment contract or if its something that should be asked about, what "time to time" means. I understand that sometimes meeting deadlines for projects requires additional time in the run ups to them and I'm not opposed to doing this, but it seems a little vague.

  • Are you Hourly paid or Salaried - though the no time of in lieu is a big red flag for a salaried role. – Neuromancer Apr 11 at 20:52
  • It is for a salaried role, I know that some times additional hours are required to meet deadlines but I am more often came across over time or time off in lieu as compensation for extra hours work. This is my first employment contract, and because it seems a bit vague what kind of questions I should ask without putting them off and withdraw the offer. – Zena Apr 11 at 21:16
  • " questions I should ask without putting them off and withdraw the offer" - sounds like maybe you would be better off if they did. – Michael Harvey Apr 11 at 21:39
  • I'm never comfortable agreeing to terms like this in a contract, even though I'll often work additional hours/weekends to meet a deadline or help out the team. The difference is, I want to do it on my terms, not be in a position where the company can force me to work those hours under threat of breech of contract. They call it "flexibility" but it doesn't seem very flexible in the employees favour - at the very least the time off in lieu should be guaranteed, not at the company's discretion. – delinear Apr 12 at 7:27
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    Boilerplate legal documents are a common theme in the UK and they often contain a lot of irrelevant/stupid/unenforcable statements. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to distinguish which assertions are irrelevant and which assertions are hyper relevant. – P. Hopkinson Apr 12 at 11:07
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The answer to this really depends on you. How much you need this job?

some flexibility is necessary and from time to time the employee may be expected to work additional hours without compensation (overtime or time off in lieu). That these could include working outside normal hours and on weekends and public holiday, and that they may be required to work more than 48 hours per week.

This seems bulk standard to be honest. And most of the times they can get away with it for several reasons. Yes you are correct that you can only work 48 hours a week unless you opt-out of this (I work 100 h a week).

However remember this small caveat:

You can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average - normally averaged over 17 weeks. This law is sometimes called the ‘working time directive’ or ‘working time regulations’.

The WTD (working time directive) stipulates that on average if you don't opt out you can only work 48 hours a week. If they have a project and the last month they ask you to work 81.5hours a week they would still be within the boundaries of WTD (it would work out at just under 48 hours per week average). And read it again, NORMALLY, the company can decide to average it out on a yearly basis, on a 6 monthly basis, as long as they have their guidelines and they can justify it on the tribunal, the time it is averaged on can be a lot longer than 17 weeks.

Asking them won't bring anything, they can say whatever they want, until you start working you won't know what is going to happen to you.

If you need the job or the experience, then thread lightly, it might be just "contract words to cover themselves up", it can be that they copied the contract off another company (it happens with smaller companies that don't want to spend money on a lawyer going over their documents).

  • Agreed although I think the whole lot is stock standard, frankly - basically it is saying, when the clock ticks past your thirty-seven-and-half-th hour of the week you'll be expected to finish your work at a logical point and not just stand up and leave. – Cosmos_Crashdown Apr 12 at 11:22
  • @Cosmos_Crashdown yeah, just wanted to show how the whole, 48h a week is a gimmick since you can be asked to work 80h for a month in the 17 weeks window and still be working an average of 48h a week...it all depends on how much of an ass the manager is...:) – fireshark519 Apr 12 at 11:40
  • It all depends on what kind of mug you are. If my boss wanted me to work 80h a week (which he doesn't, because he knows it's ineffective), that would only happen if he pays 80h a week, plus my stay in the nice hotel next door. – gnasher729 Apr 13 at 23:11
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This is my first employment contract, and because it seems a bit vague what kind of questions I should ask without putting them off?

Ask them directly.

Try:

"I read this part of the contract and I'm worried about signing something that says you can ask me to work 80 hours a week. How much do you think I will work in practice?".

Don't accuse them of wrongdoing or mention the working time directive. Play the innocent/dumb newbie who is asking a stupid question because they are new. Feel free to ham it up and apologise for asking a silly question.

Their answer will tell you something about them as an employer. Either they will tell the truth or they will lie. If they lie then you will find out really quickly once they employ you so it is a nice way to test them.

Once you've heard their answer you can assess whether or not you liked the answer and whether or not you trust them. You can also have a bit of a think about what you have to lose by accepting the role. Since this will be your first job you probably don't have much to lose (you don't have to give up another job to take this one on) so if you like the job then you should go for it.

This answer assumes that the contract offers you the option to leave with minimal notice in the first x months.

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It's all pretty standard stuff.

It's a salaried position, not an hourly rate they're paying you. The expectation of working more than 37.5 hours sometimes, and not getting overtime pay or time-in-lieu, is fairly standard.

48 hours a week is Working Time Directive limits, but some companies expect you to opt out of it; I don't believe the legislation really achieves much in practice.

What's actually expected of you will vary from company to company and industry to industry as well. For example in either the accountancy or legal industry you'll be expected to have a minimum of 37.5 billable hours per week. You might do a 10 minute piece of work which you can bill at 6 minutes per client to 5 different clients - good! Or you might go to the loo or make a cup of coffee and not bill anyone for 10 minutes, or spend an hour doing something your boss thinks should have only taken half an hour, and will only let you bill half an hour.

Talk to anyone you know who already works there, look on websites such as glassdoor, or try working for the company for a month and see if you like it.

  • You NEVER opt out of the 48 hour limit. If the employer asks you, you say NO. It is ILLEGAL for the employer to put any kind of pressure on you to change your mind. – gnasher729 Apr 13 at 23:09
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It starts off standard, then gets towards the iffy side a bit, then ends up very dubious:

some flexibility is necessary and from time to time the employee may be expected to work additional hours without compensation (overtime or time off in lieu).

I'm in the UK, and this is completely standard on nearly every contract I've had.

these could include working outside normal hours and on weekends and public holiday

...that's a bit more unusual, but not unheard of.

they may be required to work more than 48 hours per week.

That's very dubious, borderline illegal. Full details are here, but the key points are the following:

Your employer can ask you to opt out, but you can’t be sacked or treated unfairly for refusing to do so. You can cancel your opt-out agreement whenever you want - even if it’s part of your employment contract.

While you could sign the contract and then immediately opt-out, it's not exactly a good sign of things to come. While legally they can't treat you unfairly for doing that, in practice they almost certainly will; it's very easy to get rid of employees on probation without much in the way of legal recourse.

  • The Working Time Directive is calculated over a 17-week period, and the total hours worked cannot be more than an average 48 hours per week without opting out. If the average for the period is under 48 hours per week, you're under the threshold. I bet the employer will do everything where possible to ensure they stay under the threshold. – AdzzzUK Apr 12 at 11:43
  • And I will do everything possible to stay 8 hours below the threshold. – gnasher729 Apr 13 at 23:13
  • @AdzzzUK "usually 17 weeks"...it can be averaged over a longer or shorter period as long as the company justifies it... – fireshark519 Apr 18 at 8:07

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