Lawlink – What can I do to reduce my working hours now that company is doing well?

Photo: Nick Morrison/Unsplash.

Q: About two years ago I took a job in a relatively new company. The business is going very well and, for the first year or so, I was happy to do long hours, frequently doing over 50 each week. Sometimes this would mean working late in the office or taking calls and running meetings from home at evenings and weekends. I get along well with the owner and he assured me that when finances permitted, help would be hired. However, the long hours continue and I am worried about getting burned out. Is there anything I can do?

Dear Reader,

Naturally on certain weeks it is natural for work hours to fluctuate, but you are not allowed to exceed 48 hours per week on average over a three-month period.

Further to that, depending on the hours, you must take a 30-minute break and a 15-minute break each day. You must also get a total 11 hours off per day and must have 24 hours off once per week. This is something which your employer has to ensure that you take. Your employer is obligated to retain records of rest and break periods.

If there is a breach of such regulations, you are entitled to make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. You may be entitled to compensation of up to two years salary, although generally the Commission would award a much lower amount.

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It is important to note it is also a criminal offence for your employer to fail to keep records.

There are also guidelines in place as regards your ‘right to disconnect’. It is important that this right does not give rise to any claim in and of itself, but can be used in support of a claim for breach or working hours as set out above.

The code provides that that you as an employee are entitled to disengage from work and work-related communications (such as email, calls, and meetings) outside normal working hours, as well as the right not to be penalised for refusing to work outside normal hours.

Under the code, your employer should have a formal policy in place, notify you of same, confirm that you are not expected to remain online outside working hours, etc. However, you are also obligated to manage your own working time and notify your employer if you have worked through break periods.

You should discuss this with your employer. Clearly no employee should have an issue with working longer hours in exceptional circumstances for a short period of time, but normalising or expecting work (even if it ‘only’ is replying to emails on your phone) outside of normal hours should not be tolerated.