Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 104

Overtime work: A review of literature and initial empirical analysis

Overtime is normally defined as working hours that are done in addition to normal (legislated) working hours during a day or a week. In many countries it may be compensated by overtime premium pay, which can play a role in worker remuneration. Overtime working hours can have important benefits for worker compensation if a premium is paid for each overtime hour worked, but can pose health and well-being concerns for workers if they work too many hours. Working conditions in general, and overtime in particular, are crucially dependent of the prevailing institutional set-up at the national and supranational level. Furthermore, the behaviour of governments, employers and trade-union organisations is important for understanding a country’s working time regime, and in turn how they address overtime.
This paper reviews some of the evidence, mainly from labour economics, industrial relations and sociology, to provide an inter-disciplinary overview on how overtime issues are addressed by different academic disciplines. It also examines the incidence of overtime work within the context of several distinct national employment regimes and industrial relations systems, which provides a useful framework to enhance our understanding of overtime in theory and in practice.