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Growth in Overtime

Posted on February 22, 2022

Employers throughout the country continue to struggle to find workers to fill open positions. One of the consequences of that is more and more employers are using overtime to meet production needs. Overtime may entail workers coming in early, staying late, or picking up extra shifts on nights and weekends.

One of the indicators supporting the argument for a significant increase in overtime is that the gross domestic product is above its pre-pandemic level, even with five or six million fewer employees, so employees are being much more productive.

From the employee’s point of view, overtime means more money on a weekly basis and for a period of time many employees welcome that. On the other hand, heavy use of overtime can create stress and burnout. And there are suggestions that the use of overtime may be a contributing factor in employees quitting jobs more frequently than they have in other years.


For example, according to the US Department of Labor, there are more than 110 million job openings across the country. As employers are struggling to fill those positions the demand for overtime has increased. According to the US Department of Labor, manufacturers have increased the demand for overtime across the country by two thirds from 2.8 hours a week in April 2020 to 4.2 hours a week as of August this year. Some payroll services have reported even higher increases in the use of overtime.

Mandatory overtime permitted

Massachusetts recognizes that an employer can require employees to work overtime. In general, overtime works best when you give the employee as much advance notice as possible of the need for overtime. Overtime is defined is paying 1.5 times an employee’s regular wage for all hours worked over 40 hours in a week.

ome overtime related issues that employers should be aware of include:

  • Making sure they track all hours worked by their employees over 40 in a week to ensure proper, timely payment of overtime. Remember that under Massachusetts law failure to pay overtime opens the door to nonpayment of wage claims, which if successful, will result in triple damages being assessed against the employer.
  • Ensuring their employees do not work through their legally provided meal breaks (for employees scheduled to work more than six hours) without providing their written consent via a meal break waiver.
  • Following their overtime approval process to ensure that all overtime worked is requested and authorized by the company.
  • Being alert to potential increases in workplace safety violations and workplace injuries as employees work harder per hour and feel themselves more stressed. Employers may consider working with their workers compensation carrier or the Commonwealth OSHA consulting program for strategies on how to identify potential hazards in the workplace and enhance employee safety. The state OSHA consulting program is free and available at this link.


With no clear foreseeable end to the pandemic, the demand for the overtime is likely to persist. Notwithstanding that demand, employers need to take every step possible to ensure they don’t run afoul of the law.


If members have any questions about this or any other HR related issue, please call the AIM Hotline at 800-470-6277.