For most employees, the normal workweek is 40 hours.
Aside from actual work, working hours include the following:
- hours when the worker has to stay at the workplace waiting for work
- breaks given by the employer
- travel time required by the employer
The time given for meals does not count as work hours. However, if you have to stay at your work station during meals, then meal times are working hours. For example, this could be the case for a receptionist who has to continue to serve clients during meal time.
Normally, workers are paid overtime for any hours worked over and above 40 hours a week. So, even if your normal workweek is 32, 35 or 40 hours, only the hours beyond 40 are normally paid in overtime.
Exceptions to the Normal Workweek
The law says that certain workers have a different workweek. They include people who work in isolated locations or in the James Bay territory, and people working in logging or sawmills.
The law also says that certain people don't have a regular workweek. They include these people:
- students working for a summer camp or a non-profit organization with a social or community mission
- senior management employees
- workers who work outside their employer's establishment and whose hours are not in the control of the employer
- workers involved in packing, canning or freezing of fruit and vegetables during harvest season
- employees in a fishing, fish-processing or canning facility
- agricultural workers
- workers who care for people at home
Calculation of Overtime
As a general rule, for every hour of overtime, you should be paid one and a half times your regular hourly wage. However, keep two things in mind:
- This calculation does not take into account premiums, such as night premiums. For example, imagine that Corinne works the night shift. Her salary is $20 per hour plus a night shift premium of $1.50 per hour. For every overtime hour worked, Corinne will earn one and a half times her regular salary of $20 per hour, that is to say, $30 per hour, plus a premium of $1.50 per hour if she is working the night shift.
- Overtime hours are calculated on a weekly, not a daily, basis. For example, imagine that Jeanne, a part-time worker, works 14 hours per day, two days a week. Since the total of her hours worked per week is less than 40 hours, she is not working overtime according to the law.
Days Off Instead of Overtime
An employer can replace the payment of overtime by paid days off, but only if you ask for it or if you are unionized and this is part of your union contract.
Your employer will replace payment of overtime with time off equal to one and a half times the overtime hours worked. You must take this time off within a year. Otherwise, the employer must pay you money for your overtime.
For example, if Émilie replaces a colleague for a whole eight-hour day of work, and also works her normal 40-hour workweek, she can take a leave of one and a half days (12 hours).
Refusing to Work Overtime
You can refuse to work overtime in some cases:
- You can refuse to work more than 2 hours beyond your normal workday, or more than 14 hours in the same 24 hours period, whichever period is the shortest.
- If you have no set daily working hours, you can refuse to work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period.
- You can also refuse to work more than 50 hours in the same week (except for workers in isolated areas or in James Bay, where refusal is permitted after 60 hours).
In addition, your employer cannot force you to work overtime if you must see to the care, health or education of your child or your spouse’s or partner's child, or if you have responsibilities related to the health of someone close to you or for whom you are the caregiver.
Under the labour standards law, “people close to you” include the following people:
- your spouse or common-law partner
- your child and the child of your spouse or partner
- your parents and the parents of your spouse or partner
- your brothers and sisters and the brothers and sisters of your spouse or partner
- your grandparents and the grandparents of your spouse or partner
- the spouses or common-law partners of all the people named above, as well as their children and the children’s spouses or partners
You can also refuse to work overtime to take care of these people:
- any foster family that you or your spouse or partner had
- any foster children that you or your spouse or partner had
- the person to whom you or your spouse or partner is the tutor or curator
- your tutor or curator and the tutor or curator of your spouse or partner
- the person for whom you or your spouse or partner are the legal representative (mandatary)
- any other person you help or take care of because of her state of health and for which you receive government benefits
But, you must take all reasonable steps to take care of your responsibilities without missing work, for example, by trying to hire a babysitter.
This right to refuse to work overtime does not apply when there is a danger to the life or safety of the public, in emergencies, or if the refusal goes against a code of ethics that applies to the worker.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.