Without disclosing too much detail, a project that myself (the only junior on the project) and the team that I work in had to finish a 7 month project in 3 months. This meant the whole team had to work some crazy hours to get it done on time.

So my question is, is it commonplace to not get paid for doing such hours?

(Edit - Working in the UK)

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:20
  • What does your employee hand book and your contact say about TOIL / Overtime
    – Pepone
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 23:03

5 Answers 5


Yes, which is one reason why so many of us are contractors/consultants. If you're with a good company, they will compensate you with either comp time, or an IDGAF attitude towards what you are doing during slow times.

If they are a bad company and don't compensate you, update your resume and prepare to move on. A family member of mine was working so much uncompensated overtime at one position, he realized that his hourly rate was actually less than minimum wage. He moved on quickly. Strange as this sounds, that can actually happen If you are at or near entry level.

Yes, it's common.

Now, you're faced with several questions:

  1. Is this an occasional problem, or frequent?
  2. Does the company reward the "All hands on deck until we get this finished" times?
  3. Does the company compensate you in other ways (better benefits, a "hands off" attitude during slow times, comp time, et cetera)?
  4. Does throwing in and working late fast-track you for raises/promotions?

If you don't like the answers to those questions, then it's time to move on.

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    track the hours and do the math if it's a common occurrence +1
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 22:07
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    I just looked it up and IDGAF means I Dont Give A Fuck
    – tmaj
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 22:40
  • @Kilisi almost all developers in UK are salaried grades and would have no fixed hours of work.
    – Pepone
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 23:02
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    @Brandin Here are some exaples from a boss I had: "unofficial" comp time. If we needed to leave early, no problem, no docking of pay. Long lunches, no problem. Flexible hours. Coming in late if we had a Dr's appointment, et cetera. In other words, Bust your butt during crunch time, and the rest of the time turning a blind eye to what would otherwise be considered abuses, or "off the books" compensation. Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 12:27
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    @i-CONICA it's more fun when he's playing with you Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 12:42

tldr; Polish up your CV and get it out there.

In the UK, employers do not have to pay overtime, but the average pay for the hours worked must not fall below minimum wage.

You only HAVE to work overtime if compulsory overtime is stated in your contract. In any case, you are not allowed to work more than 48hours per week unless you have agreed in writing. The 48hours a week is calculated as an average over the previous 17 weeks. Reference: https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours

Do the math. If they aren't paying you overtime, you'd probably be making more money per hour flipping burgers. And you can be sure that the company salespeople negotiated a fat bonus for the company for shipping the product in three months rather than seven.

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    Because it's also responsible for many technological advances. That's not to say it's without it's flaws. I don't think this is the place for a discussion of economics.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 15:34
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    It's worth mentioning that every software developer employment contract I have ever seen or heard of included the WTD waiver. Whether that is enforceable or not is another question.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 15:51
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    @OrangeDog The waiver should be entirely enforceable in the UK. The catch for employers isn't around enforceability, it's around the fact that they cannot take any negative action against someone for refusing to agree to the WTD waiver. As for capitalism...warfare leads to massive technological advances too; but that doesn't mean the ends justify the means. There can be less exploitative/harmful ways of attaining the same goal.
    – aroth
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 16:06
  • @OrangeDog WTD waiver? Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 0:42
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    @AmaniKilumanga: WTD = Working Time Directive. A law that doesn't allow you to work more than 48 hours a week on average over a time of 13 weeks, unless you signed a WTD waiver. Strange enough, I've never seen one, never signed one, and there would be no way I'd ever sign one unless I got paid hourly :-)
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 20:11

Historically, this was common practice. In the decade or so of the Agile movement, we've seen improvements. The basis of current good practice is that a team should maintain a sustainable pace. Usually this means about 40 hours per week, and anything above that should be the exception rather than the rule.

These days, any good employer will be aware of the research that backs this thinking, and will therefore know that they will not profit by it. There are plenty of examples of workplaces where this has been turned around (it's win-win), but I daren't suggest that this is likely to happen where you are.

  • Yep, too many of those projects when management writes checks that the staff is made to cash leads to very high turnover, and some deliberate bugs buried in the code as well (not my ethics, but I've found mischief of others) Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 18:03
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    It's not just that. The more hours you work, the less efficient you get. You spend the mornings fixing the bugs from the previous evening, etc, etc. So in addition to not having a life, you aren't actually producing any more. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 19:43
  • I believe several studies have shown you actually produce less when working more than 40 hours regularly. Human beings are not efficient or effective workers when they are physically tired.Unfortunately, the legal ability to not pay overtime has led to managers who are not aware that what they are asking for is counterproductive or who don't care since they aren't paying for the extra hours anyway. If we removed the exception to overtime for professional work, the number of hours of overtime you would be expected to work would drop in a lot of professions, but especially in IT.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:06

Yes, it does seem to be a common practice (by culture, not enforced by management). My advice is to double check your contract and abide by it. No doubt it says something like "40 hours per week plus reasonable overtime", so do that. Reasonable overtime in the UK seems to be about 8 hours per week (thanks @Pete), although personally, overtime is only reasonable if it's very infrequent and required to hit an important deadline. If you're no longer happy with the terms of your contract, look for a new job.

Bottom line is that doing 7 months worth of work in 3 months is NOT reasonable overtime.

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    Doing 7 months work for 3 months pay is most definitely not reasonable.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 20:14

One thing to consider is your own experience level. If it takes you longer than a more experienced person to do a given job at the same pay grade, maybe you should put the time in and work on your skills so you can get work done faster.

To you it may seem like a 7 month job, but to someone more experienced it may be just right.

I've taken jobs where I didn't have half the required skills for the job, or was less experienced, and was honest during interviews, on the condition I'd make up for that by working long hours until I got the skills I needed and could finish work in a reasonable time frame.

Sometimes the experience is way more valuable than the overtime pay you'd make, if it takes you a lot longer to do things because you are fumbling around in the dark, but learning a ton of stuff, as opposed to getting stuck on poorly quoted projects.

Otherwise, yea, I'd be polishing up my CV and thinking about making a move. You really need to say to yourself "Is it worth it to stay here?"

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    The difference in experience/speed of development should be expressed with different salaries.
    – tmaj
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 22:39

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