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Synne Bjørvik Staalen
Attorney Synne Bjørvik Staalen thinks that too many young employees are being denied the overtime pay they’re entitled to receive.

Advice and Tips

Can my employer refuse to give me overtime pay?

Published: Sept. 15 2022

«Thomas» is a 26-year-old recent graduate in data technology. He’s been offered a job at an IT company with a good salary and terms of employment. But his contract proposal also states that he’s being offered a so-called “particularly independent position” with no right to receive overtime pay.

«Thomas» sends his questions to Tekna’s legal department, asking if an employer has the right to deny their employees overtime pay.

Tekna`s attorney Synne Bjørvik Staalen explains that generally speaking, employers have to pay overtime if employees work more than their contracted number of hours. According to employment law, normal working hours are not to exceed 40 hours over seven days; as a result, any hours worked above 40 hours are to be compensated at a minimum of an additional 40 percent on top of regular salary.

- The Working Environment Act clearly states that overtime is to be paid for all employees who work more than 40 hours during this time period. However, there are some exceptions to the rule on overtime pay that apply to management and people in so-called particularly independent positions. According to the Act, these people can be exempted from the laws on overtime pay.

«Thomas» asks if it’s correct that he as a recent graduate can be considered «particularly independent» and so be exempted from getting overtime pay.

- No, most likely you’ll be entitled to be paid overtime. This is because in order to be considered as particularly independent, you have to have a job where the work is of an independent nature, and where the employee usually has a unique competency in one or more areas. It’s very rare that recent graduates have an «area of expertise» that causes them to be exempt from particularly independent positions. It’s also rare that recent graduates go right from school to management positions.

Staalen goes on to explain that unfortunately, many Norwegian companies «commit sins» when it comes to overtime pay in spite of the fact that the law is clear on the matter.

- We see in Tekna that far too many employers place employees in particularly independent positions, even if they have work assignments that ought to give them the right to receive overtime pay. We’re especially concerned that a lot of young people are getting contracts with no right to overtime pay, which according to the law they’re entitled to receive.

In 2021, 27 percent of recent graduates working in the private sector reported that they had no right to receive overtime pay.

- Young employees rarely start out as managers or experts; Tekna’s opinion on this is that the percentage of new employees having no right to receive overtime pay should be close to zero.

- The percentage of new employees with no right to receive overtime pay should be close to zero.

«Thomas» wonders how he should proceed to ensure his right to receive overtime pay.

- It’s important that employees know their rights before signing their employment contract. We advise everyone to consult an expert about their rights and what the law says about these rights. Our Tekna attorneys review contract proposals with members, which quickly reveals if there are these kinds of errors in the member’s contract.

Staalen also thinks it’s important that companies give all of their employees valid legal contracts.

- Companies mustn’t exploit the fact that recent graduates are insecure and vulnerable when negotiating their first contract. The law is clear on this matter, and systematic violations of the law can result in legal action being taken against companies. Tekna’s standpoints is that the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority should to an even greater degree address the problem of how these types of particularly independent jobs are used. Recent graduates should have the right to receive overtime pay in accordance with current employment law.

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