Employers are not allowed to instruct workers to work overtime and then withhold their rightful payment for those extra hours. Although working overtime can lead to a higher paycheck, some employers take advantage of their employees’ dedication by disregarding their entitlement to fair compensation.

Most employees who work overtime are compensated for the additional hours, as long as their contracts permit such claims. However, certain employers attempt to evade payment when an employee exceeds the legal maximum overtime hours set at 72 per month.

Recently, the High Court issued a groundbreaking ruling in favor of employee rights, ordering a company that exceeded the overtime cap to pay for all extra work performed by its staff. The company’s argument that it wasn’t required to pay beyond the legal limit was dismissed, as the court emphasized that the law is meant to protect workers, not employers.

Previously, the Employment Claims Tribunal believed that workers shared responsibility for breaching the extra-work limit by forgoing overtime pay. Nonetheless, the High Court disagreed, pointing out that employment law offers additional protection for vulnerable employees, particularly those engaged in manual labor or earning lower wages.

Furthermore, the judge highlighted the significant power imbalance between employers and employees, making it challenging for workers to refuse overtime requests without fearing repercussions. Therefore, employers must acknowledge these key points made by the judge regarding overtime payment:

  1. Contractual Working Hours: Regardless of contractual clauses capping overtime at 72 hours per month, an employee can still claim compensation for additional hours if the employer required them to work beyond the limit.
  2. Not an Absolute Prohibition: The overtime cap aims to protect employees from excessive working hours. However, employees can claim overtime pay beyond the limit, as the law does not prevent them from doing so.
  3. Overtime Law Not Meant for Employers: Employers cannot use the overtime cap to avoid paying overtime compensation to their employees. If employers need workers to exceed the 72-hour limit, they must seek permission from the Ministry of Manpower and ensure the employees agree to work extra hours.

In conclusion, this case serves as a significant victory for employees, reaffirming the purpose of employment law, which is to safeguard workers’ interests. Instead of exploiting dedicated employees, employers should appreciate and reward their hard work to foster a prosperous company.


If you have any company-related queries, you may email us at [email protected]. When in doubt, seek legal advice or consult an experienced licensed Employment Agency with the Ministry of Manpower.

Yours Sincerely,
The editorial team at Singapore Employment Agency

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Little Big Employment Agency Pte Ltd is a licensed Employment Agency with the Ministry of Manpower with license number 19C9790.