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January 4, 2020

Overtime regulations

Opinion

January 4, 2020

Overtime regulations are presently contained in section 47 of the Factories Act, 1934 and section 8 of the W. Pakistan Shops and Establishment Ordinance, 1969.

In both these enactments extra pay for overtime has to be paid to the worker, who works for more than nine hours in any day or for more than 48 hours in any week. Extra pay is given at twice the rate of an employee’s ordinary salary.

Section 43 of the Factories Act empowers the respective provincial governments to make rules providing for the exemptions to such extent and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed in such rules. Accordingly, workers engaged on urgent repairs in factories are exempted from the provisions of section 34 (weekly holiday), 36 (daily hours), 37 (intervals for rest) and 38 (spread over) of the Factories Act.

Workers engaged in preparatory or complimentary work, which must necessarily be carried on outside the limits of normal working hours in the factory, are exempted from all the above sections except the section on weekly holiday. By virtue of the powers vested under section 43, all the provincial governments have made rules prescribing the extent of overtime work hours and the conditions for such work.

Factories engaged in continuous process, carried out without any break throughout the year, need periodical overhauling or shut down for maintenance and cleaning up of the plant. This activity may require a week or two to complete and involves quite an expense and consistent strenuous labour.

Since employers wish to complete it within the shortest possible time, workers from outside are also hired to work along with the factory’s own workers, to expedite the jobs in hand. They are assigned to work in two shifts of 12 hours each and get only the meal break. Their wages for engagement in such jobs are much higher than the normal wage rates.

In order to facilitate such work and to provide it legal cover, the respective governments have prescribed for them quite liberal overtime regulations under the title of “urgent repairs”. There is no limit on overtime work in such eventuality and the workers assigned on urgent repairs may work for any duration of time provided they are given one hour’s rest break after 8 hours and one day’s rest after working continuously for 14 days. Besides, the employer has to send a notice to the chief inspector of factories informing him/her of the names of workers employed in urgent repairs and the precise nature of their work.

Workers employed on dispatching and receiving goods or on maintenance of work etc may also work continuously for eight hours before getting one hour’s break. They are also permitted to work for maximum of 60 hours in a week inclusive of 12 hours overtime hours with maximum of two hours overtime a day. The permissible limit of two hours overtime in a day should be extended to at least four hours a day as most of the time the breakdown of machinery or plant equipment requires longer time for repairs.

This is an area where the respective provincial governments should facilitate employers in smooth functioning of the industry instead of imposing stringent restrictions. Workers get double the amount of their normal salary as compensation for those hours. There is also no issue with the employers in putting the workers to extra work with additional wages as their productivity is not hampered.

The overtime of office staff is covered by the West Pakistan Shops & Establishments Ordinance, 1969. It provides that in any day or in any week, in which there occurs stock taking, making up of accounts, settlement or such other business operation, an employee of an establishment, may be required or permitted to work overtime in such establishment beyond the daily and weekly limits, but the total number of hours so worked by him/her should not exceed 624 hours in one year.

In the Sindh Shops Act of 2015, the annual working hours have been reduced to 150. However, this provision is most realistic in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shops Act of 2015 and suits the employers. It has fixed the weekly overtime hours at 24 in the eventualities mentioned above. It would be in the interest of business if the other provinces also adopted a similar provision of overtime work as in KP.

If the hours are beyond the legal limits then the worker is not obliged to work on overtime. Nevertheless, workers hardly refuse to work on overtime whether or not it is permitted by the law as they are tempted by the higher wages received for such work. The government’s labour inspectors also look the other way in prosecuting employers for non-compliance with the overtime regulations.

As the engagement of workers on overtime work is an essential requirement of the industrial and commercial establishments, the respective provincial governments should fix realistic limits instead of imposing stringent restrictions.

The writer is an industrial relations professional.

Email: [email protected]