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I work in an IT company, software developer. There is a term in my contract which roughly translates to "Mr XYZ will also be required to work any additional hours as necessary or appropriate from time to time to carry out their duties properly and effectively (without additional remuneration)."

Now after some time spending in the company, my boss is persuading me to work from home in nights as well (framing the talk for 'business needs urgently' direction). Is it legal and ethical?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Jenny D, Philipp, sf02, dwizum Jul 31 at 12:46

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  • "Questions seeking advice on company-specific regulations, agreements, or policies should be directed to your manager or HR department. Questions that address only a specific company or position are of limited use to future visitors. Questions seeking legal advice should be directed to legal professionals. For more information, click here." – gnat, Jenny D, Philipp, sf02, dwizum
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  • 7
    This is trickier than it looks. Your boss is persuading implying he cannot order you into doing it. Your handle is ITExpert so I'd assume you're in software. Is this like on-call duty? Is there a rotation schedule? (also add a country tag to your question) – Little Child Jul 31 at 3:02
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    You did not tag it with a location: those contract terms were common in Germany, but have been ruled illegal (on the grounds that you cannot consent to something of unknown quantity in a contract, what if "any" hours would be 25 per day?) by courts. – nvoigt Jul 31 at 3:47
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    The usual advice - polish your CV/resume – Mawg Jul 31 at 7:00
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    When you ask "Is this legal?" you need to mention the country (and in some countries the administrative subdivision), because labor laws vary a lot around the world. We unfortunately can not answer ethical questions, because ethics are based on personal opinion. – Philipp Jul 31 at 8:16
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    Please add a country. In the UK those sorts of terms would only be invoked in rare, extenuating circumstances (eg twice a year or when a system crashes) and wouldn't be in a very grey legal area. There should also be an indication of how often this would happen somewhere. – Smock Jul 31 at 10:44
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IMO, "without additional remuneration" would be enough for me to not accept the job in the first place, or to leave it if I only understood it after I started.

No professional works for free. Any company that expects you to work for them without being paid can put that expectation where... well, you know where.

Also, while some additional hours from time to time are reasonable, the amount of additional hours I can do is never guaranteed. From time to time and in small amounts, ok, especially if the company is also understanding when I have to do something else during work time (as long as that is also rare, on my side).

But often and in serious amounts of time?

If the company really needs me to put in very long hours whenever they need it, they better make it worth my time.

Nights? Twice the hourly rate and I'll consider it.

  • 1
    +1. It's also common in India to gave "without additional pay" clause for overtime. The trick to working in companies like these is to know that you will have to work additional hours and factor it into your base pay. A little overtime from time to time is okay, btw. It becoming a norm is not. – Little Child Jul 31 at 6:12
  • It's also common in USA/Europe not to pay overtime above a certain grade (with the bar usually being set low). But, that's why I am contract ;-) work an hour get paid an hour. I totally agree with "double time for evening/night work". Polish your CV/resume – Mawg Jul 31 at 7:02
  • I downvoted this answer because it appears to be based solely on the personal preferences and opinions of the author. But answers on this website should be universally applicable. It also doesn't mention any legal aspects. – Philipp Jul 31 at 8:18
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    I don't agree with not accepting a job because they don't pay overtime. A lot of rolls are heavily compensated in the annual salary and bonus' on the basis that you will work overtime, or from home when required. – Bee Jul 31 at 9:38
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I have worked for bosses like this in the past. They'll put something in your contract that reads like "needs to do some overtime from time to time without extra pay", but in the end "from time to time" is revealed to actually mean "on a regular basis, very often".

It may be legal for them to persuade/force you to work overtime on a regular basis, based on how they formulated this in your contract; but it absolutely isn't ethical for them to do so. My advice would be to look for employment elsewhere and leave this parasitic boss. There are plenty of IT jobs out there, and many are in way better companies; you are a professional and deserve better than this; you deserve being paid fairly for your work!

  • you deserve being paid fairly for your work! Do we know they're not being paid fairly? Maybe their base salary is very high, or they get an annual bonus based on company performance. – dwizum Jul 31 at 12:44
  • Apparently, the boss expects them to work at night, on a regualr basis, without any extra compensation. I call being expected to work for free after work hours on a regular basis "not being paid fairly". – Niko1978 Jul 31 at 12:48
  • It's not working "for free," it's working according to terms of a contract which also include compensation details we don't have. You can't say "this pay for this work isn't fair" when you don't even know what the pay is. – dwizum Jul 31 at 12:50
  • I disagree. Also, a boss like that in my experience usually doesn't offer a very high base salary to begin with. Also, working after work hours without extra compensation on a regular basis is working for free. – Niko1978 Jul 31 at 12:55
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I think others have covered the legal aspects here, and touched a little on the moral one. I think the heart of what you're asking is:

"Do I have a right to be pissed off?"

Yes. Don't buy in to the "rockstar developer" hype; If work were fun, people wouldn't get paid for it. You're not a family, you're not screwing anyone over. Being asked to do more than usual is an indicator that someone has over-promised somewhere down the line; and unless it was you, you're not duty bound to fix their mistakes (if we're giving the benefit of the doubt. I've worked jobs where it's baked in to the estimates.)

I recommend looking into "Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior". It's essentially a big book of bad company tropes. If you see yourself nodding along with too many of them, it might be time to abandon ship.

"What can I do about it?"

First and foremost: You could just not. Don't let your manager browbeat you into something you don't want to do. Unless they're literally about to make it a fire-able offence, don't bother. Even if you're in America, and working in an "at will" state (god help you), it costs quite a bit of money and time to go through the recruitment process for someone new, so the worst case scenario is that you get a "first offence" style talking too if they view it as mandatory (though please take in what you know about your employer into consideration here. Maybe you work for actual lizards that are happy to drop employees at a moment's notice, in which case I'd argue they're doing you a favour).

At this point, as pointed out, you could quit on the spot; but I would take other points into consideration.

  • How regularly are they asking this of you? Is it infrequent? (i.e. can you be swayed by any form of repayment?)
  • Do they have a concept of Time Off In Lieu? Do you ever get to actually take it? Do you get to take it at a time that makes it worthwhile?
  • Do they have a bonus that you feel makes up for the overtime worked?
  • Are you at the start of your career and angling for a promotion?

In my opinion, none of these things completely make up for the overtime, but they ease the chaffing a bit. If they don't offer these things, suggest them. If they're not forthcoming, then it's time to quit.

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It’s stated in your contract, so let’s read this carefully: “to carry out their duties properly and effectively”.

Overtime doesn’t make you more effective. Actually, since you will be tired, doing overtime makes you less effective. Effectivity is how much in positive results you can produce per hour worked, and overtime doesn’t help with that.

And I don’t need to do overtime to do my duties properly. Is there danger of missing a deadline? You avoid that as a company by planning properly, and hiring enough people to do the job. You can carry out your job properly and miss deadlines if there is too much work to be done.

With this contract, the only time you could realistically be forced to do overtime is if your company works with others in a different time zone and to do your job properly and effectively you may have to work at inconvenient times.

Usually the terms are “as required by the business”. As before, bad planning and not hiring enough people doesn’t create a business requirement. Your colleague having an accident, or an unexpected customer request producing lots of income, that might be a business requirement.

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It was stated in the contract, and you did sign it. You are bound to the terms in the contract, until either you or the company decide to break it.

Yes, you are legally required to work at night without any more money coming into your bank. Not working under the contract terms is equivalent to your boss not paying you.

Contract is a contract, and you signed it.

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    Well, yeah, he is legally obliged until he quits. Since the terms are ridiculous, most people would start looking for another job as soon as they understood that. In fact in some countries such terms are not enforceable. The OP should say where he is, and then someone from there could perhaps tell him the legal implications. – Dragan Juric Jul 31 at 5:58
  • In many countries, this answer is just wrong. An employment contract which violates local labor laws is usually unenforceable. – Philipp Jul 31 at 8:21
  • See my answer. The contract can usually not force you to work at night. – gnasher729 Jul 31 at 9:41

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