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Here's what to do if your employees always refuse to work overtime

by , 27 November 2014
Let's assume your company will be busy over the festive season.

To prepare for this busy time, you ask some of your employees to work overtime, but they refuse and you notice a pattern. These employees always refuse to work overtime.

You're now stressed and wondering if there's anything you can do about this situation.

The good news is you may have some recourse thanks to an old Labour Court ruling.

Read on to find out what this case says you can do if your employees keep refusing to work overtime so you can keep your business running.

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Do THIS if your employees always refuse to work overtime

The reality is, if you don't have an agreement with your employees to work overtime, it won't be easy to deal with them if they refuse to work overtime. Overtime is voluntary and your employees have the right to refuse.
But, according to the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service, there's at least one case (SEAWUSA v Trident Steel (1986) 7 ILJ 86 (IC)) where the court held that you can dismiss employees who persistently and unreasonably refuse to work overtime. That's even if there's no contractual obligation to do so.
This means, you can treat a case where employees won't, or can't work overtime when you need them to as one concerning your operational requirements. You must consult with them on possible alternatives.
For example, you can transfer employees who refuse to work overtime to other positions where they don't have to work overtime. If this doesn't work, retrench these employees. You can then hire new employees who will work overtime (and who agree to do so in their contract of employment).
Please note that you MUST have a valid reason when retrenching employees. I.e. you must have sound operational reasons justifying the need for employees to work overtime. If you don't, you'll have legal trouble coming your way.
As you can see, not having an overtime agreement makes things harder for you.
That's why we recommend you have a clause in your employment contracts. It must say your employees agree to work overtime when you need them to. This will make your life so much easier. Your employees will be in breach of contract if they refuse to work overtime. And you can take disciplinary action against them.

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Warn your employees about the penalties they may face if they refuse to work overtime when there's an agreement

In your disciplinary code, you can include a clause that says, for example: 'If you refuse to work overtime in accordance with what is agreed in your employment contract, it will be regarded as misconduct'.
You must ensure your employees are aware of the code and give them a guide on what penalties you'll impose if they refuse.
Make it clear that for this form of misconduct, you'll give out a written warning for the first offence, a final written warning for a second offence and dismissal thereafter.
In addition, tell them you might also impose serious penalties sooner because of the nature of your business and the importance of overtime to your business operations.
PS: For more information on dealing with overtime, check out Your Essential Guide to Overtime: Everything You Didn't Know About Overtime and More.

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