I am working 20 hours per week as I am an international student, in my 20's, I was asked to help my colleague to do some task, my colleague also works for 20 hours per week. I was done for the day but some work left and I had to work more hours(unpaid) to finish the task. My colleague says he wants to work more hours (unpaid) to finish the task ASAP. He is somehow new and he tries to impress the boss.

What should I do now? Should I work extra hours to finish the part that I was assigned? or should I resume my work next week?

I would definitely love my job and I do not want to do something that is unusual. What are the etiquettes?

PS: they want me to work more than 20 hours but due to the fact that I am a student it is not possible to pay me more than 20 hours. Canada regulation for international students.

my boss did not ask me to work overtime at least directly, my colleague wants to work overtime.

  • Does this answer your question? Is doing unpaid overtime a bad thing?
    – gnat
    Jan 28, 2021 at 14:50
  • A side note: you may want to double-check legal requirements with someone who understands local immigration law very carefully. It may be so that you cannot legally work or volunteer more than 20 hours a week. The company may be in breach of immigration law by allowing you to work/volunteer overtime more than 20 h/w or paying you for the overtime. If this is the case and information reaches immigrations, your visa may get curtailed with pretty grim consequences for you and your boss. (This was the case in UK several years ago, I think nowadays it's even worse).
    – oleksii
    Jan 29, 2021 at 13:45

3 Answers 3


If you are done for the day, bring your task to a level where you can easily pick up tomorrow and then stop working. That is the default when you have a contracted number of hours (otherwise why would you be employed for 20 hours, when they could just employ and pay you for 2 hours a week and you'd need to do 18 hours unpaid overtime?).

Don't do unpaid overtime, until implicitly or explicitly asked to.

Depending on your country, location and industry, you may get explicitly asked to do overtime, or maybe there are implicit expectations when you boss says "this needs to be done by Friday" and you cannot make it in your regular hours. But you mentioned no such thing, neither implicit, not explicit.

You are in business now, you are not a charity giving out freebies. Does your boss sometimes pay you without you having worked? No. So stop working without getting paid.

The only etiquette there is is be transparent about your progress. If it's not done yet, it's not done yet. But don't let your colleague tell your boss it's done by a specific date, when you are not sure you can do it without the unpaid overtime. When your eager colleague says "oh it's done by Monday", stand up and say "My part will be done Wednesday or maybe Friday". Do not sit there in silence, because then your boss will expect results by Monday, from both of you.


As with all things in life when money changes hands, someone is giving something and is receiving money in exchange. What is important to understand is what the thing is that is being given. In employment, the thing that is being given is commonly (and incorrectly) considered to be the work that is done. However, if you actually read your employment contract, that's not actually what is being given. That is being given is the time you spend doing it. You are giving up your time and being paid for it. And don't forget, like all beings in the universe, we have a limited amount of time to be here, and so you have to value the time you have and not give it away for free, because it's not free to you.

Now, this is important, because when you work unpaid overtime, you are giving away your time for free. You are doing something for the company and not being paid for it. Does the company ever do that in reverse? Do they give you money for free, or anything aside from what they have to to keep you at the company? Probably not. So likewise, don't give them your time for free. When you have worked your daily time (4 hours I guess per day), get your work to a stable state, and come back and work on it tomorrow.

With this, you should be reasonable with your boss as to how long it will take to get something done, and keep your boss up to date if that changes. Don't promise something will be done on Monday if it will cost you working 40 hours over this weekend to get it done; instead say it will be done in 2 weeks, and work at your 20 hours per week pace. If your teammate is this type of person who likes to give away their time for free, that's their business and not yours; people who do this tend to be over-stressed, over-anxious, burn out quickly, and, in some cases, have a higher rate of suicide. If your teammate is like that, counsel them that what they are doing is not healthy, but at the end of the day, let them burn themselves out, but don't let them take you with them.

If this teammate thinks they are impressing the boss by working lots of unpaid overtime, they're not. Most good bosses don't actually appreciate that and don't expect that, once they know about it. You should tell your boss that the estimate of the project is including working a bunch of unpaid overtime and see what the boss says; a good boss, upon hearing this news, will not be happy and force you to extend your deadline to something more reasonable. And if your boss says something like "ok, then work the overtime" or whatever, that's how you know you have a crappy boss who's not worth impressing anyway; in this case, work just your 20 hours and get done whatever you can, and if that causes you to be fired, it's not a big loss because that boss was a bad boss anyway.


When the bell rings, stand up and walk away.

Never, ever, ever, ever work mnore than 20 hours - ever. It's just that simple.

When you arrive again, on time, in the morning, get straight in to it efficiently. Work hard - and when the bell rings you should already be standing up and walking out.

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