Managers are tasked with keeping employees on task to meet project deadlines. To complete the work, they must communicate with employees to ensure the goals and objectives are clear. Every action and interaction with employees should drive the business forward.
What are managers to do, however, when there are more work shifts than employees available to cover those hours? Do they make the decision to let things fall through the cracks? Or, will they follow mandatory overtime laws to ensure the work gets done on time?
Immediate answers appear to be “yes,” but managers are advised to proceed with caution. While the work is important to the business, employees are needed to complete each task. Forcing them to work more than 40 hours may some to leave, which makes the understaffed problem worse.
Negative Repercussions from Forced Overtime
Employers who use forced overtime and mandatory overtime essentially require employees to work extra hours. Whether they want to or not, they must work beyond their 8-hour day, 40-hours per week schedule. Unless there are legal restrictions, you can do this.
Generally, employers institute an overtime policy to have a more cost-effective measure for combating a shortage of skilled workers. They are trying to deal with an increased workload. Rather than hire full-time employees, employers simply require extra work from current ones.
While the immediate benefit to employees is extra pay, making overtime a required obligation may diminish morale and cause higher levels of stress and fatigue. If this occurs among staff, using overtime as a means to meet deadlines become counterintuitive.
Stress and fatigue does not make employees more productive. In extreme cases, requiring too many hours from employees can severely affect your company.
Employees may quit, pursue legal avenues or if it is union labor, they may strike. Such negative repercussions can polarize employees and managers.
Federal Overtime Law
Although there is a potentially negative business effect to requiring overtime, federal law is generally on the employer’s side. That is, there are no limits to how many hours over a standard work week adults can work. Theoretically, you could require 100 hours or more without violating federal law.
It is in within your rights to penalize employees who refuse to work when their health and safety are not threatened. Practically, that would not be a wise decision.
Additionally, while federal laws do not prohibit employers’ overtime policies, it does require certain pay for those hours.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must receive one and a half times their regular pay for every hour that exceeds their 40-hour work week.
General Criteria Governing State Laws
Most state laws are similar to federal law of not restricting the number of hours of overtime employers can add to employees’ schedules in a day or week.
However, some states may have laws that require rest and meal breaks after employees work a specific number of hours consecutively. Other limitations may refer to union or employment contracts that may state you can never force overtime hours.
Develop a Clear Written Company Policy about Mandatory Overtime
For you and your employees, it is helpful to establish a clear, written policy about working overtime. Consulting with an employment expert and your state’s labor department also helps to avoid a lawsuit.
As long as your actions are legal, there should not be a problem if you need to discipline or terminate an employee for violating the policy. Keep the same approach when it comes to paying employees who work mandatory overtime hours.
The policy should state the conditions for receiving overtime pay. As long as it aligns with state criteria, you should have a defensible stance.
Alternatives to Forced Overtime and Mandatory Overtime
Overtime pay is an attractive way for employees to earn extra money for vacations and the holidays. However, preventing burnout among staff is something that every manager should take into consideration.
Perhaps there are alternatives to forcing employees to work overtime.
- Post available shifts and solicit volunteers to accept the extra hours. You still get shifts filled and the work done without demanding it.
- Another alternative is to hire temporary or part-time workers to pick up the extra time. Rotating overtime among employees will keep the same ones from working week after week.
- Of course, the obvious is to solve staff shortages before there is a problem with shift coverage.
Relying on perpetual overtime is not the best solution if you want a thriving organization with productive workers and high morale.
Taking these alternatives into consideration, while also soliciting input from employees, can improve meeting deadlines and keeping employees satisfied.