Last week I had to go and visit a client, which required me to stay overnight. I was given very little notice and had evening plans which I had to cancel.

On the car journey up to the client visit, I asked, quite politely, what the overtime situation was; we often claim overtime for our of hours support work, so overtime is nothing out of the ordinary. My boss simply replied (and I have confirmed this with other employees) that no one else has ever claimed overtime for evening site visits, and that he was quite surprised at even the notion.

However, my belief is that I should be entitled to overtime, as I am putting myself out for the company on my own time!

Now, a bit of context: The plans I had to cancel were simply to visit a friend, which is why I didn't mind cancelling them too much; if I had had reservation or tickets (something which was going to leave me out of pocket) I would have argued that I had plans and thus could not go. My boss has an attitude, which causes us employees some exasperation sometimes, that nothing is more important than work, and we should be expected to work late at a moment's notice. We tolerate this to an extent, but on the odd occasion where employees have been unable to, the employee usually finds themselves called in "for a chat" the next day...

So, we are now at the morning where overtime is due to be submitted, and my boss has not gotten back to me on the overtime issue (he has either forgotten or assumed that I will have). Given that I feel I am entitled, but would be breaking a company precedent, how should I approach this matter? I want to bring it up but don't want to be seen to be aggressive to taking liberties.

Any advice would be greately appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  • Was the actual client meeting out of working hours? Or just you had to stay overnight due to the length of travel? – Fiona - myaccessible.website Jan 29 '15 at 10:39
  • Whatever your plans for the evening were is irrelevant to the question. I suggest your remove it from the text. – user8036 Jan 29 '15 at 10:59
  • I don't think my plans for the evening are entirely irrelevant. I included the specifics mostly for context because I'm not sure what would be of use to someone answering, but the point I had plans, and the fact that I would have made more fuss had they been more binding, is important to the question. – Raiden616 Jan 29 '15 at 13:54
  • The actual client meeting was not out of hours; if that was the case I would definitely be claiming without question. It's merely that I have put myself out for the company that I feel I deserve compensation. – Raiden616 Jan 29 '15 at 13:57
  • 1
    For the most part, out of town travel time is not considered overtime. The travel time must be intrinsic to performing the work such as a pilot or you must be performing actual work during the travel. Staying in a hotel overnight would not count towards that, work meetings that go past the normal work hours would. Personally I think you would get the overtime denied and cause a problem with your employer for no reason if you filed for it. – HLGEM Jan 29 '15 at 16:38

How should I approach this matter? I want to bring it up but don't want to be seen to be aggressive to taking liberties.

I assume there is nothing in your employment contract or legal requirements specifying overtime. Such agreements may stipulate whether overtime is payable and how it is calculated. If you are a member of a union, consult your union rep. If your company has an overtime policy, consult that or talk to HR. I also assume you are a salaried worker and not earning an hourly wage. If you are paid on an hourly rate, charge the extra hours.

Otherwise, this comes down to (1) your role, (2) your level of responsibility and (3) the company culture/relationship with your boss.

Overtime is the in nature of some roles, such as an accountant putting in the hours near end of financial year or a software developer squeezing last minute changes before the end of a project. If you are in sales, an after hours visit may be what pushes a sale through, getting you that commission.

Those with more responsibility are expected to do what is required. For example, a manager interviewing candidates for a new role may need to do the interview after hours because many candidates will already have a job. Senior staff are expected to manage their own time.

In your case, I suspect the company culture/relationship with your boss is the culprit.

However, before you demonize your boss, look at the customer visit from his point of view. If the customer visit is very late notice, it sounds like the customer may not be happy and the boss is doing his best to keep the customer happy. The boss needs someone there that knows the product or area (you). The boss is usually only there to approve or make decisions and assure the customer their issues are taken seriously.

That said, if you feel taken advantage of politely remind your boss in private about your discussion. For example, "I am glad we got the customer issues sorted and I want to do the right thing. I am not saying we should not have gone. I am trying to balance work and personal commitments." Temporarily forget that the "boss has an attitude ... that nothing is more important than work" - if you go in there looking for a fight, you will have one and you will lose. If you are having a high turnover, low morale or are having difficulty attracting the right people for roles, a reward for effort may help that, too.

Instead of asking for overtime pay, I would ask for time in lieu. (that is, a comparable number of hours off). Paying extra may put more financial pressure on the organization, may look bad on the manager's metrics and may require approval higher up the management chain. It also encourages employees wanting extra pay to push for out of hours activities when they are not truly needed. Time in lieu, by comparison, usually requires just your boss's permission, does not affect the budget and does not attract the undesirable behavior.

Other non-monetary solutions could be a monthly award (assuming the company culture supports that) or a small token of thanks (e.g. two movie tickets or a $20 gift card). Often the best reward is recognition - a simple sincere "thank you".

  • I like the idea of asking for the hours in lieu - that's kind of what I meant when I didn't want to look like I was taking advantage. The reason we tolerate the behaviour sometimes is because we know it simply comes down to keeping the customer happy – Raiden616 Jan 29 '15 at 13:56

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