Many companies encourage employees to work overtime hours to maintain effective workflow in busy periods, and employees are often compensated for these hours with increased pay rates (according to their award, enterprise agreement or another remegistered agreement). This may seem like a win-win situation, but there are many hidden issues with excessive overtime and overloading of employees that are rarely spoken about.

The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 provides guidelines to protect the health, safety and welfare of both workers and other parties who may be affected by the activities of the business. Employees participating in excess overtime can be left feeling fatigued, over-worked and mentally drained, leading to safety issues, emotional and psychological issues, increased workplace accidents and ultimately compromising the WHS practices of the business.
Emotional & Psychological
It is easy for managers to begin to see overtime as standard operation rather than as a temporary solution, and when employees are unable to see the end of these extra hours, problems arise. Working longer hours and excessive amounts of overtime can be counterproductive and result in major emotional and psychological problems for employees.

These extra working hours disrupt the biological functions of an employee and the social structures of their lives, leading to increased risk of mental health and psychological problems such as;
– Increased chance of substance abuse
– Depression, anxiety and other mental health diseases
– Negative work-life balance
– Lack of motivation and focus
– Social withdrawal
Health Issues
In addition to this, increased overtime hours can result in many physical health and safety issues for employees in all types of workplaces.

Increased stress for example can lead to a plethora of physical health issues such as;
– Increased blood pressure
– Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
– Long-term sleep problems
– Muscle pains
– Hypertension
– Musculoskeletal disorder
– Chronic infections
– Diabetes

Extended working hours in different types of workplaces can lead to different long-term physical health issues. For example long-term lower back injuries in jobs requiring manual labour, strained eyes and shoulders for office jobs and knee and back problems for workers on their feet for extended periods of time.
Workplace accidents
Workers who regularly participate in overtime hours have been reported to be 61% more likely to get injured or injure somebody else on the job. The fatigue associated with extended working hours can result in workers who are tired, irritable and overworked, leading to impaired judgement, increases in error and slower response times. These effects therefore set the stage for increased accidents while on the job and travelling to and from the workplace.

What are your rights in terms of overtime?

Under the Fair Work Act (S62 (2)), the maximum ordinary hours for a full-time employee is 38 hours a week. Outside of this, employers can request further hours, so long as is it considered a “reasonable request” or is considered overtime in line with the terms of their employment contract, award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement. One of the factors used to determine if a request is reasonable is whether the additional work hours will come with any risk to the workers’ health and safety or if there are any personal circumstances.

The attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers are well versed in the legal complexities of employment law. Please call us to schedule a consultation at 1800 780 770 at your earliest convenience.