Employers generally like to make use of overtime as it is a comfortable method to temporarily increase production without the need to look for new employees while being able to take advantage of the skills and people they already know and rely on. Nevertheless, the amount of overtime work that may be performed by employees has its limits and these are firmly stipulated in the Labour Code (Act No. 262/2006 Coll., as amended, hereinafter the “LC”) and apply even to overtime work performed by employees voluntarily.
By law, overtime work is defined as work performed by employees, upon instruction of the employer or with the employer's express or tacit consent, which exceeds the standard weekly working hours by predetermined schedule of working hours and pattern of shifts. The term standard weekly working hours means 40 hours per week for most employees, or 38.75 hours per week in case of employees on a two-shift pattern or 37.5 hours per week for employees who are on three-shift or continuous pattern (schedule) of work, or who work underground (generally in mining, construction of mines, or who are engaged in geological prospecting in mining sites). Special definition and regulation of overtime work applies to part-time employees; for them, overtime means any work exceeding their predetermined (agreed) weekly working hours; however, part-time employees may not be ordered to work overtime. In situations where the employer provides employees with time off at the employee's request, and the employee performs work to compensate for such time off, this is not regarded as overtime.
Overtime work should be performed only exceptionally. This means that overtime may not be defined as a part of the planning and shift system. The employer may order overtime work only due to serious operational reasons, even within an uninterrupted rest period between two shifts or, under further conditions laid down in LC, even on non-working days. An employee may not, however, be ordered to perform more than 8 hours of overtime work within one week and 150 hours of overtime work within one calendar year. Overtime work in the excess of the scope defined above may be required by employers only under a specific agreement with employees. Such an agreement does need not to be made in writing, but it is highly advisable to document the employee's consent for eventual use in future.
A total scope of overtime work may not exceed on average 8 hours per week calculated over a period of no more than 26 consecutive weeks. Only a valid collective agreement may extend such period to 52 consecutive weeks at the utmost. This means that the very maximum of overtime work which may be by law carried out by an employee is capped at 416 hours per year (or more precisely, per consecutive 52 weeks). Overtime work may be also initiated by employee – provided that employer agrees; such agreement may be also subsequent and / or made verbally or tacitly understood (a silent approval of employees’ activities by employers); if the employer does not wish that employees work overtime (e.g. the employee has already exceeded the yearly maximum of overtime hours), the employer should explicitly prohibit such work. With regard to special groups of employees, it is prohibited to make pregnant employees and adolescents do overtime work. Employees taking care of children, who are younger than one year and part-time employees may also not be ordered to work overtime (however, they may reach an agreement on overtime with the employer).
It is the employer's responsibility to observe all limitations on overtime work defined in the Labour Code; otherwise, employers may be subject to sanctions in line with relevant provisions of Act No. 251/2005 Coll., on Labour Inspection, as amended, and these may amount up to CZK 2 million (approximately 73 000 €) depending on concrete breach of obligation.