Work Hours and Overtime

What are the laws concerning Overtime Work and Hours in Cambodia? Find out on about overtime compensation laws, overtime pay for salaried emoplees, Pay Rates for Overtime Work and Hours

What does ILO say about working time?

The ILO Constitution, adopted in 1919, considers the improvements in working conditions especially regulation of the working hours including the establishment of maximum time in a working day and week to maintain peace and harmony in the world. It is of the view that lasting peace can only be built through social justice and once the perilous working conditions are improved.

According to an ILO report, working time became a central workforce issue at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and it emerged as the fundamental labour policy issue since the adoption of the Factories Act of 1844 by the United Kingdom. Ultimately, The Factories Act 1844 limited working hours for women and children.

Regulating working time is a major and the oldest concerns of labor legislation. Recognizing its importance, ILO adopted its very first convention in 1919, which limited hours of work (8 hours a day, 48 hours a week). The said convention also provides for adequate (daily and weekly) rest periods.

According to ILO Conventions 1 and 30, the standard or normal working hours should not exceed forty-eight hours in a week and eight hours in a day. Convention 01 is applicable to the industrial undertakings which include among others mines, quarries and other processes for extractions of minerals, construction, maintenance and repair of buildings, railways, telephone installations, gas works, transport services, etc. On the other hand, Convention 30 covers those employees, which are engaged in commerce sector and administrative activities/office work.

Does ILO support forty-hour work week, as found in many European nations?

Yes, ILO does support this move for reducing working hours. During the Great Depression, ILO adopted another convention, which called for reduction in working hours (to forty hours a week) in a manner so that wages/living standard of the workers is not affected negatively in consequence. It is interesting to note that most of the ratifications for this convention have been registered by European and former Russian states (total ratifications so far have been 15 only).

Reduced working hours are also considered as one of the best measures to reduce unemployment in an economy.

What does ILO say about work on short notice?

Work on short notice/on-call work is usually referred to as precarious/contingent/atypical or casual work. There is no specific ILO instrument, which protects these casual or temporary workers. Advances in globalization have led to an increase in the informal employment. Temporary work forms 15% of total paid employment in EU and 12% of total paid employment in OECD countries.

According to ILO, “casual workers are those workers who are called in to work only as and when they are needed”. Thus ,the working hours of a casual employee fluctuate and are dependent on the magnitude of work. Furthermore,the employment contract may mention minimum and maximum hours of work; however, if an employment contract does not stipulate minimum hours of work, such contracts are called zero hour contracts.

Although casual work seems beneficial both to the employer (in meeting seasonal needs, filling in vacancies temporarily, no extra costs associated) and employees (especially young and student workers where such experience gives them access to the labor market), however, such workers have lower productivity, high turnover rate, little job security, a feeling of dissatisfaction and have no benefits like pension or paid leave.

Casual/precarious work has appeared in the last two or three decades while most of relevant ILO instruments were adopted before that time. This is the reason that no ILO instrument specifically mentions casual work. However, ILO Committee of Experts has reiterated time and again that ILO Conventions and Recommendations have general application unless otherwise specified. Hence, by logical inference we can say that casual workers (should) have all those rights that are enjoyed by regular workers.

Rest and Lunch Breaks

What does ILO say about rest breaks?

ILO conventions do not clearly provide for rest intervals/breaks during working hours, however, national labor legislation usually provides for these breaks in order to maintain health & safety and well being of workers. Workers need these breaks for rest, meals and religious activities. In most of the countries, rest breaks are unpaid hours of work because workers during these breaks are not at the disposal of their employer. However, some countries count these rest breaks as part of the working hours. The table below shows data on rest break duration and total working time qualification leading to rest breaks.



Rest Break Duration

Total Working Time*


At least 1 hours for meal & rest

Daily work limit: 8 hours

Rest period before completion of 8 hours of work


At least 30 minutes paid rest break

Daily work limit: 8 hours

Rest period before completion of 8 hours of work


30 minutes break

On completion of 5 hours of work


At least 30 minutes break

On completion of 4 hours of continuous work


No clear provisions on rest breaks


Rest breaks between 30 minutes to two hours

On completion of 5 hours of continuous work


30 minutes to 1 hour

30 minutes on completion of 5 hours of work; 1 hour rest break for 6 hours of work


At least 30 minutes

On completion of 4 hours of work


At least 45 minutes

During a working day of 8 hours

South Africa

1 hour

On completion of 5 hours of work

* after which a worker becomes eligible for rest break.


Working at Night

What does ILO say about working in the evening, night, early morning?

According to the ILO convention 171, night work is "all work which is performed during a period of not less than seven consecutive hours, including the interval from midnight to 5 a.m.". The 'period' and 'specified time limit' are determined by the competent authority (in a country) after consultation with worker and employer organizations.

Cognizant of the fact that night work has negative effect on workers' health, the above ILO convention requires measures for

  1. i.    protecting workers' health
  2. ii.    compensating them appropriately (night work premium)
  3. iii.    providing opportunities for occupational advancement
  4. iv.    ensuring their safety and protecting maternity

National labor legislation in Pakistan prohibits night work by women. This policy was in line with the ILO Convention 89, which prohibited night work by women. However, this convention was criticized as having discriminatory impact on women by limiting employment opportunities for them especially in the manufacturing sector, which used to employ most of night workers. A large number of night workers are employed by tertiary/services sector these days.

In response to the criticism leveled against convention 89, a new convention (no. 171) was adopted in 1990, which uses a gender-neutral approach and does not proscribe night work by women.

There are both pros and cons attached to the night work.  As it seems advantageous for both employers (as there is optimum use of machinery and equipment; higher production) and employees (higher total pay if night work premium is granted) on the one hand  while on the other  it has also negative aspects for both workers and employers. For workers, sleep disturbance affects worker performance and there is increased risk of occupational accidents and diseases including digestive and cardiovascular diseases for night workers. There is also increased risk of breast cancer for women night workers. Similarly, for employers, the night work brings more administrative costs in compensating workers for accidents and diseases.

Women and Irregular Working Hours

Are Women protected in the night work?

ILO Convention 171 talks about maternity protection for women night workers. It requires that an alternative to night work must be available for (pregnant) women night workers before and after childbirth, for a period of at least sixteen weeks of which at least eight weeks shall be before the expected date of childbirth. This period of exemption from night work (of 16 weeks) can be extended on production of a medical certificate stating that night work may be harmful for the health of mother or child. During this period, a women worker can't be dismissed or given dismissal notice, except for just cause, which is not connected with pregnancy or child.




  • Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919; Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention, 1930; Forty-Hour Week Convention, 1935; Night Work Convention, 1990
  • ILO Conditions of Work and Employment Database
  • “Policies And Regulations To Combat Precarious Employment”, published by ILO
  • “Decent Working Time”, published by ILO
  • On-call work and “zero hours” contracts”, published by ILO
  • “Night Work”, published by ILO
  • Night Shift Might Boost Women's Breast Cancer Risk: Study