So I'm in a bit of a tricky situation right now, and would like some advice. Here is the relevant background information:

  1. I am a salaried employee (engineer in training) based in Ontario, Canada. Engineers (and those in line to become an engineer) legally are not entitled to overtime pay.
  2. In my contract the "hours of work" are outlined as Monday-Friday 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.
  3. In the same contract (which I have signed) there is a termination clause stating that "breach of employee policies may result in termination".
  4. In the company policies, the "hours of work" has been amended to include "from time to time employees may be required to work for more than 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week as the work of demands.
  5. I have never signed this policy and therefore have never, in writing, agreed to work overtime without compensation.

My issue is that in the past year, I have worked an abundant amount of overtime hours. A few months back, I was asked to work overtime and I declined because I had a sister-in law's wedding to attend. My boss was very angry about this and made a comment that "I never work overtime for this company, and I am very distrustful and can't be relied on" which was not only extremely ungrateful, but very wrong. In the end I made the sacrifice to come in and work on the Sunday. The employer's relationship with me has since deteriorated since that incident.

Needless to say, I am currently looking for a new job - but most of my freetime hours are necessary for this process.

I am now being asked to work overtime hours in the following week - but I don't think I can in good conscience do so (I need the extra time). At the very least I believe I would work the overtime if I was getting paid for it.

How should I go about asking for this compensation, knowing that I am not legally entitled to compensation for it?

Update: So I'm not sure if my employer found this thread and realized it was me writing it, but they went out of their way to forward me the ESA (Employment Standards Act) which has amended to include that Overtime will not be compensated, and overtime rules do not apply to Engineers. Furtheremore, they are informing me, that as per the ESA I will no longer be entitled to break-time. Yeah, time to get out. Thanks for the answers though, guys.

  • Alright I'll move it away, I figured since there was a "law" tag that it was applicable Oct 14, 2016 at 16:24
  • @ChristopherEstep The only legal contractual question is the "Furthermore..." at the end. I think if that point is removed the question is on-topic.
    – David K
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:25
  • I'll remove the last bit, and move it over to the Law SE site. Thanks Oct 14, 2016 at 16:27
  • @ballBreaker If you remove the last bit, then I don't think you have to move it. Others may disagree, but that's my opinion.
    – David K
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:28
  • 1
    @DavidK sorry, I meant I'll move that specific part over (but keep the rest here), as it is still something I really need to know. I can't just refuse the overtime and risk being fired. I think the question as is, fits here nicely, but the law specifics I'll go there for. Thanks! (I'll spare them the question about asking for compensation) Oct 14, 2016 at 16:29

4 Answers 4


It sounds to me like you're working for a really crummy company. They will most likely not consider paying you overtime, and, at this point, asking is likely a waste of time. However, if you do wish to do so, it's simpler than you think. Ask to sit down with your boss, and get right to the point:

Hey boss, there's been a lot of requests for overtime in the last few weeks, and while I'm trying to do as much as possible, I'm afraid that I can't quite keep up. I could possibly try to squeeze in more hours, but I'd like to discuss some sort of compensation for overtime before I would be willing to do so.

In your shoes, I would also document all the overtime you've put in so that you can refute claims that you're not being a team player (it would come in useful in the above conversation)

That being said, I would also make a point of refusing any work which interferes with your job search. After all, your relationship with them is already damaged, you may as well focus on your own interests.

Prioritize getting the heck out of there, and good luck!

  • Thanks! This should be some help, I am wondering - do you think it would be better to pro-actively tell them I will not be working overtime from here on out without being paid for it, or on an as-needed basis? Oct 14, 2016 at 16:52
  • 2
    @ballBreaker - depends how long you're going to need to hold on to your job. If you tell them unequivocally that you refuse overtime then you'll get fired sooner rather than later. If, however, you try to put in some overtime but draw the line on some days, then they might grudgingly keep you around for a while.
    – AndreiROM
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:58

Your terms of work - nominally 40 hours per week, with unpaid overtime, is normal for your profession in Canada. If you didn't have a problem with your boss when your sister got married, I would suggest that you just suck it up. It is part of having a professional job in Canada. (Of course, this isn't a universal rule, but it is the norm.)

Now regarding your boss - I would have pointed out the hours that I had worked overtime in the past at the time he challenged you. If you want to patch things up with him, put together a list of times you have worked overtime and meet with him to discuss the issue. If this doesn't help, it is time to get another job.

You need to make a decision - do you want to be an engineer, given the working conditions you will likely face. Will you be happy, working overtime when it is needed, for no extra pay? If you can't reconcile yourself to this, you may have to consider different work, possibly as an hourly paid employee. I am writing this as a Canadian engineer.

  • I agree with this answer, in addition, if a boss talked to me like that and then decided to hold a grudge, I'd be job hunting, not thinking of a way to kiss and make better.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 15, 2016 at 6:02
  • Thanks for the answer. For what it's worth, I knew what I was getting myself into becoming an Engineer, and in the past I have had no issues with working overtime. I know many companies which do pay for overtime work though in Engineering. Either way, I will be making sure I'm a little more picky towards which companies I work for in the future. Oct 17, 2016 at 14:01

As you have pointed out, It is common practice for salaried employees to occasionally work over their hours for no pay.

When this becomes a regular practice and is expected, regardless of your prior commitments, this is a warning flag, and time to consider alternative employment.

Good companies would appreciate your ability to do overtime, rather than demand it. If something unplanned occurred (e.g. Client crisis or IT support event) then time off in lieu would often be granted post incident.

The alternative is a culture of resentment, where people do not feel respected, and do not respect their employers business whilst taking their pay cheque for granted.

  • Would you just not take the time of later? I recall using some of my Toil to got to a Union Demo outside of the company HQ Jan 7, 2018 at 16:52

You should not put in any overtime work since you clearly stated you are not allowed to do so or ask to be compensated for it anyway, as per your contract. If you have committed all 40 hours of work a week, I don't know what grounds they think have to ask you to work extra hours knowing that they will not be compensating you for it (I'm assuming your boss knows the details of your contract). They are clearly trying to take advantage of the fact that you, good-heartedly agreed to put in extra work without complaining about not being compensated. Do NO overtime work for them, you need all 'your' time to look for a job at a company that values their employees.

  • Unrealistic. Not getting paid for occasional overtime is the trade-off one accepts when becoming salaried rather than hourly. If it becomes more than a special case, then it's time to consider negotiating comp time or a raise... or if you can't live with it, changing jobs -- but realistically crunch time is part of the job.
    – keshlam
    Oct 14, 2016 at 22:55

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