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Compulsory overtime/ “staying on”

If you are scheduled to finish work at 5.00pm, does your manager have the legal right to demand at 4.00pm that you work until 8.00pm? You would think not, but the best that can be said is that this is a grey area. Incredibly, there is no specific law against the abhorrence that is compulsory unannounced overtime. However, nor is there any law stipulating that workers must perform overtime.

McDonalds would argue that their right to cancel your plans whenever they think they might be short of a fry person is enshrined in your employment contract, where it says, “on occasions you may be asked to continue working past your normal finishing time; you will be released (sic) as soon as the need for your services has passed”. McDonald’s probably have too much money for any court to accept the argument that they asked and you declined.

One of the reasons why it is a grey area is because article four of the human rights act 1998 states that “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.” However, it also states that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude” which suggests that if it was worth the paper it was written on, nobody would have to work for McDonalds at all. In fact, we could probably close down McDonalds on the basis that article 3 stipulates that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
Seriously, the document is so pissy because having stated that, “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour”, it goes on to provide a list of exemptions including every conceivable way in which we might be forced to do forced, compulsory labour, ending with the catch all “any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations”. McDonalds have too much money to lose a case like that.

However, legal or not, compulsory overtime is a stain on humanity and you should never put up with it. Managers don’t really know whether they can force you to stay on or not either. We found that the best way to deal with an “I’ll need you to stay until eight” demand was to laugh loudly and explain you have something else to do, like picking your toenails. Resist it, resist work by all means necessary!

So, having read through the information you should have an idea whether your shafting is legal or not. So...

Yes I am getting screwed illegally.

No I am being screwed within the law.

These pages are ‘use at your own risk’! We’re burger flippers not lawyers and we strongly recommend you consult a ‘no win, no fee’ solicitor before doing anything crazy. We can also only provide a superficial overview here. More detailed information on employment law can be found at:

These pages are based on UK and EU law but some of the information will be relevant in the US and elsewhere. For information on US employment rights, see:

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