Advice and Tips
Where to find laws on working hours
The purpose of this particular set of labor laws is to ensure that the time employees spend at work doesn’t cause unnecessary stress to either their own health/social situation or that of their family members. You can find laws on working hours in Chapter 10 of the Working Environment Act.
Look here to find laws on the following topics:
- work schedules
- definition of normal working hours
- daily and weekly off-duty time
- working on Saturdays/Sundays and holidays
- working at night
- exemptions to working hour laws
You can also find laws on working hours in collective bargaining agreements – whether this agreement is between Tekna and your employer – or in a separate agreement that your employer applies to all of your company’s employees.
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You can often find additional laws on work schedules in your company’s personnel handbook, work regulations or other written documents. So you’d be wise to do read these documents carefully in order to get a complete picture of your company’s situation.
Why do we have working hour laws?
The purpose of this particular set of labor laws is to ensure that the time employees spend at work doesn’t cause them or their family members unnecessary stress with regard to their health or social situation.
What does the term ‘working hours’ mean?
The term ‘working hours’ means the time an employee is at the disposal of their employer to perform work tasks in accordance with their employment contract, instructions or orders. Breaks are generally not considered to be included in working hours as long as you can freely leave your workplace. Travel to and from regular place of work is normally not considered working time. As for required travel time to another workplace other than the fixed workplace outside normal working hours, read our article Travel time is work time.
Are there any exceptions to these laws?
The Working Environment Act cannot be deviated from by agreement to the disadvantage of the employee, unless the individual statutory provision expressly provides for it. A practical example is that a trade union, under certain conditions, can agree on other working time rules than those provided for by law.
Scope and exceptions
Generally speaking, all employees are protected by the working hour laws found in the Working Environment Act, Chapter 10.
Yet there are two groups of employees who may be exempt from sections of this chapter. These include employees in leadership positions and employees with particularly independent positions . The law states that all regulations on particularly independent positions are to be closely interpreted; as a result, an employer must follow strict procedures when hiring an employee for this type of position.
The protection provisions found in § 10-2 nr 1, 2 and 4 apply in all work-related situations; in other words, work schedules mustn’t cause employees to be exposed to adverse physical or psychological stress. In addition, all employees have the right to be exempted from night work and/or demand a reduction in the number of their work hours.
Tekna’s experience is that the exemption provision is used to a greater extent than what the wording actually allows. If you’re unsure about if you belong to one of these two groups, we recommend that you contact Tekna’s legal department for an evaluation of your case. Tekna believes, among other things, that recent graduates can very rarely be defined as employees with a particularly independent position as a general rule.
We’d also like to point out that it’s not necessarily correct that you’re exempt from the protection provisions in the working hours chapter just because your employer’s written in your contract that you won’t get overtime pay. The definition of your position must be thoroughly evaluated.
Regulations in the working hours chapter
What are normal working hours
According to the Working Environment Act § 10-4, normal working hours mustn’t exceed 9 hours per day (24-hour period) or 40 hours per week (7 days).
For employees who work shifts or in rotation, working hours mustn’t exceed 38 or 36 hours per week, respectively.
Many people work 37.5 contracted hours per week – either through a collective bargaining agreement or personnel regulations. Lunch breaks aren’t normally included in working hours. Also, there’s a difference between normal working hours according to the law and contracted working hours. Normal working hours are 40 hours per week and contracted working hours are normally 37.5 hours per week. And while the 2.5 hours difference isn’t overtime according to the law, it might be overtime according to the contract.
You can find more information on normal working hour laws here: Working Environment Law § 10-4
According to the Working Environment Law, if you’re required to work more than 40 hours per week, this is defined as overtime. Overtime work may only be required if there’s a special and time-limited need for it. Examples of these needs include unusual work pressures, unforeseen events and acute illness.
The law sets limits for legal overtime, which may be deviated from if there’s an agreement either between the company and company union representatives or by receiving special permission for requiring overtime from The Norwegian Labor Authority. Overtime mustn’t exceed 10 hours over the course of 7 days, 25 hours for 4 consecutive weeks or 200 hours during a period of 52 weeks.
You have the right to be exempted from overtime work if you have serious health-related-/social reasons for doing so. Being sick and/or the sole caregiver for young children may be examples of social reasons. The extent to which your reason will be found strong enough for exemption often requires you to get documentation of your condition from a professional (for instance, getting a note from your doctor).
According to the law, overtime work must be compensated with at least 40% additional pay; upon agreement, a higher amount of additional pay may apply.
You can find more information about overtime law in the Working Environment Act § 10-6.
Daily and weekly time off work
An employee must have at least 11 consecutive hours off work per day (24 hours), and 35 hours per week (seven days). The weekly time off work should, as a general rule, include Sunday.
You can find the provision on daily and weekly time off work in the Working Environment Act § 10-8.
Working at night
Working between 21:00 and 06:00 is considered night work, which isn’t allowed unless the nature of the work makes it necessary. An employer must explain why night work is necessary before implementing it.
You can find more information about regulations on night work in the Working Environment Act § 10-11.
Working on Saturday/Sunday and holidays
Working on weekends is defined in the law § 10-10 nr 1 and is only allowed if the nature of the work makes it necessary. Also, an employer must discuss having an employee work on Saturday/Sunday and/or holidays with your company union representatives before implementing it. You can find more information about this law in the Working Environment Act § 10-10.
Work schedules - flexible and reduced working hours
You’re entitled to have a work schedule that makes sure you won’t suffer from unreasonable physical and psychological stress. You’re entitled to have a flexible schedule if you can do your work without causing any significant disadvantage to your organization.
If you’re age 62 or above, or have any health-/social-/other significant reasons that affect your well-being so that you need to work fewer hours, you can apply to do so. The right to reduce the number of hours you work requires that this will cause no significant disadvantage to your organization. If you work fewer hours, you have the right to be prioritized (and increase your number of working hours) when a position becomes available in your organization – provided that the available position has the same (or nearly the same) work tasks as your current position. You can find more information about this law in the Working Environment Act § 10-2 nr 4.
Disputes about flexible working hours, reduction of normal working hours and exemption from night work and overtime shall be resolved by the Dispute Resolution Board. Please contact Tekna’s legal department if you find yourself in one of these situations.