Most employees are called upon to do overtime at some point. The Labour Standards Act contains some very specific rules about overtime hours, including the right to refuse overtime work in some situations.

The Labour Standards Act covers:

Most employees in Quebec, even if they also benefit from a collective agreement. However, some workers (for example federal government employees) are not covered by this law or are only covered by parts of it.

To find out more, see our article Workplace Protections in Quebec.

For most employees, the normal workweek is 40 hours. 

Aside from actual work, working hours include the following:

  • hours when the worker must stay at the workplace waiting for work to be assigned
  • 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 workstation during meals, then mealtimes are working hours. For example, this could be the case for a receptionist who has to be available to serve clients during their mealtime.

Normally, workers are paid overtime for any hours worked over and above 40 hours a week. So, even if your regular normal workweek is 32, 35 or 40 hours, only the hours beyond 40 will be paid in overtime.

Exceptions to the Normal Workweek

The law says that certain workers doing certain jobs have a workweek of more than 40 hours. These 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, for people doing certain jobs, overtime is not calculated based on a 40-hour workweek. These include: certain people don’t have a “regular workweek”. These include:

  • students working for a summer camp or a non-profit organization with a social or community mission
  • senior management employees 
  • 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 provide care for people at home

There is also an exception for employees who work outside of their employer’s establishment and whose hours cannot be controlled by the employer.

This exception can apply to employees working remotely, like a salaried worker who works remotely at a location that is not under the control of the employer. However, this exception only applies if the employee’s hours cannot be controlled by the employer. The simple fact that an employee works remotely does not make their hours uncontrollable. It’s important to distinguish between “uncontrollable hours” and “uncontrolled hours”.

The employer can often take steps to ensure that their remote employees respect their working hours. The employer can also inform their employees that overtime is not approved and will not be tolerated. In addition, the employer must take steps to make sure that mealtimes, breaks, and maximum working hours are respected.

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 collective agreement. union contract.

If you choose this, 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 does eight hours of overtime one week, in addition to 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 two hours beyond your normal workday, or, if the normal workday is 10 hours or more, you can refuse to work more than 14 hours in the same day. 
  • 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 child, or if you have responsibilities related to the health of a family member. However, you must take all reasonable steps to take care of these 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.