This just happened to where I work and I need some feedback before I discuss it.

The project I currently work on is slipping and members of the team were requested to work overtime - paid overtime only if they want to, which is OK. On a meeting, I asked for a definition of "overtime", specifically if it includes staying late, which I do, constitutes to overtime, versus working on weekends, which some people opted to. The answer was that only weekend time counts as such.

I feel puzzled because I had a tendency to stay late. I behave as basically asked to, I should stop when the clock says so, in order to create gaps which will be filled on weekends (so that I will get paid more), also I feel as-if I got a message that the time I put "doesn't count".

I also believe that behaving this way, I would sabotage my efforts and capability to deliver: Having to stop before finishing something, means that the next day, some time in order to get back on track will be needed...

I want to talk with my superiors, but some community feedback is necessary. I've been labelled as a bit of introvert so I do not want my first time being vocal, to be with something bad.

  • 6
    Depends on the country and what sort of employee you are and company policy though as a rule of thumb any time outside of the "normal working time" is over time. And if you are in the UK/EU you have to adhere to the Working Time directive For a big FTSE 100 UK Company I would expect 1.75 time on Sat double time Sunday.
    – Neuro
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:59
  • I don't think it can be over-stated how much it depends on jurisdiction and company culture. For example MrFox's golden rule "don't work overtime for free" is not universal. If you start to drop tools and walk out at 5pm because you aren't being paid overtime for late work, then your employer might just have to put up with it. Then again they might fire you or at least stop considering you for promotion. Depends entirely on the law and your contract and your employer's feelings about "working the job not the hours". Commented Jun 14, 2014 at 12:56
  • @SteveJessop absolutely. My approach was more in the lines of "being recognised and appreciated", which in my case was the opposite (looked down because if you work more on each day, then there is no excuse to work on weekends) - causing issues with the team. I have also come across the following: "work more to get promoted", so that many people will work for free, while only few can be promoted at a time. There is also the last person in the office syndrome... Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 6:50
  • 1
    @Neuro: Many big companies ask you to sign away your Working Time Directive rights the minute you join at least working in IT where you may be required to be on-call and often may work over the 48 hour limit per week. Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 11:47

4 Answers 4


Here's two golden rules when it comes to overtime:

1) Never work for free.

2) Be very explicit about any problems you believe that the business will encounter.

If you think that you need to work more hours for things to be on track, bring this up with management. It's their job to decide what to do in response to that. Maybe they will drop features, push release dates, or maybe they will pay you more for your time. Regardless, it shouldn't be your decision. By simply working more and not mentioning it to them you are not letting them see the problem and you're not giving them a chance to fix it. At the same time it is not fair to you or other developers around you.

So in your situation I would stop working unpaid weekday overtime, and work weekends in as much as I could. If you feel that this schedule prevents you from delivering on time, you should tell your managers and see what they say. If they say something ilke "let's just try harder" or "we need to give it 110%" that means they're ignoring the problem and you will just have to watch it burn. Don't let them sucker you in to work for free.

  • 23
    +1 for Never work for free! Once you start down that path, forever will it dominate your destiny! Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 16:18
  • 5
    @Chad Please elaborate on your first sentance. Say you've been hired to work 37.5 hours a week for X amount per year. Then your manager hints that you should 'help him out' by working 45 hours per week (for the same X amount per year). To me, that sounds like you just worked 7.5 hours for free.
    – MrFox
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 16:46
  • 3
    @Chad This must be a cultural thing. From where I stand, if the contract was X hours for Y pay it means X hours for Y pay.
    – MrFox
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 16:56
  • 5
    @Chad Not quite. Every marginal hour of my time carries an opportunity cost. I could be working on another side contract (and making an hourly rate there), I could be building my own project (which will pay off in the future), or I could be spending time with my family. If I put in more hours at my day job, then I need to be compensated for all these valuable things that I forego. My day job buys 37.5 hours of my time for X - deal, but if I still get X for every incremental hour after that then they got it for free (as in, they paid nothing and I got nothing).
    – MrFox
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 17:17
  • 6
    @Chad In my experience the arguments you are using are textbook examples of how managers will try to press people to work without paying them more. Whether you should or not depends on many things, like do you have stock in the company, do you have places to go if it goes under, etc. Do you even want to work in a company that is so cheap that it tries to squeeze hours out of you without paying you for them? Ultimately if you have options and your time is valuable you will not cave in to this.
    – MrFox
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 17:57

I encountered an identical situation in the UK 12 years ago, where only weekend overtime - authorised in advance - was recognised. My commute was around 75 minutes, one way, unpaid, and so staying late during the working week was far more attractive.

Essentially the company was relying on our good will to complete projects on time and on budget, continuously, and not supporting us by expanding the team or recruiting. I asked for action, and received a good pay rise, which is not what I was after. I left.

I now recognise that I had helped to create that situation by working late habitually when projects demanded; the company project planning began to assume 50+ hour weeks from our department.

For the company policy to change, there would have needed to be a crisis. I could - and should - have forced that situation by not working outside my contracted hours.

I'd suggest you ask your manager why the extra hours you out in are not counted as overtime, and explain you find the rule highly demotivating and demonstrating a lack of flexibility.

They may be prepared to come up with a solution, but if not, I'd stop doing the extra work.

  • "My commute was around 75 minutes ...". Exactly the same situation with me (75 minutes exactly). I am currently planning to move closer. Also I agree that from our current behaviour, we set predicates... Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 9:33
  • A smaller commute would certainly give you a lot more flexibility, especially if you are using public transport at the moment. My current commute is 8 minutes, against the traffic...
    – GuyM
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 10:11
  • This is core to the issue (but would ruin the general nature of the question). I am not capable to work on weekends, because currently I am looking for a place to move closer to work. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 11:11
  • 1
    A former employer rolled out a new set of project estimating tools one year. They presented them to us, in a meeting. The tools had unpaid overtime baked into the numbers. I raised the question, and received the answer "These are based on actual labor data from XXX plant." That didn't make it right. (XXX plant was notorious internally for "Black Pit of Calcutta" "Death March" projects.) Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 21:51

I'm assuming you get paid by the hour since you have a choice to work overtime and get compensated for it. Why do you work late without getting paid overtime before this request was ever given? I would only work for the time you are being paid for. There are only so many hours in the day, you will not be able to do everything in one day so do the most you can and leave when your time is up. If the employer says that you can only work overtime on the weekends, then that is when you are allowed to work the overtime.

  • I work as an employee in a company that pays overtime after some hours/week. Currently I did not "track" those hours, because I was new to the project, hence most of them were spend into learning and not adding value... Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:51
  • I'm unaware of the labor laws of the UK (I'm assuming you work there since that is where your profile says) so I wouldn't be able to help you after all. In the USA, if you work at an hourly job you are entitled to overtime past 40 hours per week, but salaried employees do not have to be paid for overtime. In either case, if overtime is offered the employer gets to choose when and how much overtime you are allowed to work. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:56
  • Yes, you are right UK... Based on the situation, I might ask them what they want me to do basically and if I should change my approach... Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 14:58
  • Mistake: "I am in the UK" Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 15:13
  • +Paul Brown - there is no direct equivelent to FEMA Overtime laws in the "Socialist" Uk it's down to what your contract says and if that is silent if your are on a salary or hourly paid
    – Neuro
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 12:33

It never ends well when a company agrees to pay overtime* but puts weird conditions on it, like "weekend work counts, but working late doesn't".

For instance, I once worked at a company where, as a project slipped, they asked people to work some weekends if they could. As a sweetener, they said "if you work six hours on a weekend day, we'll pay you a full day's salary".

So what happened? A bunch of people started taking sick days during the week, then working six hours on Saturday or Sunday, thus getting the same pay for less work.

If you feel that this scheme is sabotaging your efforts, you're probably right. But to be honest, it's hard to recommend any course of action other than going with the flow, cutting back on your working late, and putting in some weekend time for some extra cash.

* I use the phrase "agrees to pay overtime" on the assumption that we're talking about salaried employees where there is no legal requirement to pay overtime. This situation only exists in some countries.

  • This is an anecdote not an answer to the question. While interesting it does not answer the question. Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Chad: The question is actually an anecdote, not a question. You'll note that at no point in the question does a question mark appear. The feedback I give in response to the OP's desire for feedback is "it's hard to recommend any course of action other than going with the flow, cutting back on your working late, and putting in some weekend time for some extra cash". My anecdote is background for that advice. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 0:57
  • Then flag the question do not respond with an anecdote non answer. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 7:23

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