Hours of work and overtime

Hours of work

The Employment Standards Act contains provisions aimed at ensuring employees are not overworked.  You should ensure you are familiar with the following rules.  The descriptions provided are general overview of the requirements of the Act, but are not intended to form legal advice.  For specific questions, you should refer to the provisions of the Act or contact a qualified professional – we will be happy to help.

Meal breaks

Section 32 of the Act provides that employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid break after five consecutive hours of work.  If the employee is required to work or be available to work during their meal break, they must be paid for the break.

The Act does not provide for “coffee breaks”.


Most employees in British Columbia are entitled to be paid overtime.  Under Section 35 of the Act, employees are entitled to overtime if they are required to work more than eight hours in a day, or more than 40 hours in a week.

Section 40 provides that employees working more than eight hours in a shift are entitled to “time and a half”, or 1.5x their regular wage, for their overtime hours.  Employees are entitled to “double time”, or 2x their regular wage, for overtime exceeding 12 hours in a shift.

Where overtime is regularly scheduled, the employer may request its employees enter an “averaging agreement”.  This must be entered in writing, comply with strict requirements set out in Section 37 of the Act.  We recommend having a professionally prepared averaging agreement to ensure you are in compliance with all the technical requirements of Section 37.  A good averaging agreement can be used as a template for more than one situation where overtime averaging is appropriate in your workplace.

Employees may request that the employer establish a “time bank” for overtime hours worked, under Section 42 of the Act.  When overtime is banked, it must be taken in lieu or paid out at the same rate it was earned.  Section 42 also contains technical requirements and a professionally prepared time bank agreement and procedure is also strongly recommended.

Many employees are entitled to overtime even if they are paid a salary.

Exempt employees

Not all employees are entitled to overtime pay.  There are exemptions for managers, workers in certain industries, resident caretakers, and certain professionals.  These exemptions are set out in the Employment Standards Regulation.  Keep in mind that these employees may still be entitled to pay for time worked in excess of eight hours per shift, just not at overtime rates.

The information provided on this page is a general overview of the hours of work and overtime rules set out in the BC Employment Standards Act.  It should not be taken as legal advice.  For answers to specific questions about your workplace obligations, or to have an averaging agreement prepared, contact EmployRight and speak with one of our employment lawyers.