The work from home overkill: Long hours. No privacy. Same pay.

Nicol Myburgh says if you’re constantly expected to work insane hours you can ask for compensation.

There are two risks inherent in the work from home (WFH) era and they are two sides of the same coin – lack of productivity and excessive productivity. Many people fall into the latter category, working long hours into the night without proper compensation, and well outside the boundaries of their employment contracts.

As Nicol Myburgh, head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies points out, this is a very fine line that companies need to walk very carefully. “There are certain rights and provisions in law that are applicable to employees across the spectrum,” he explains. “Employees do have rights, and they can push back on extreme working demands and conditions, but this is a complex space to operate in and can have repercussions in the workplace.”

While employees are entitled to only work within their contractual obligations, this is difficult to practise in a toxic environment. Those who refuse to work until late at night, or start crazily early in the morning, can be labelled as not being team players. This then has political repercussions across future career growth and how the person is perceived by their colleagues and teams. People do have the right to set hours and stick with them, but it’s a juggling act.

“If you’re constantly expected to work insane hours, then you can ask for compensation,” says Nicol. “If the employer refuses to give you this and certain conditions are met, you can go to the CCMA. Again, this will have a long-term impact on your relationships within the company, but it may be worth it if the overtime is excessive and exhausting.”

Employees should look at their contracts first. Find out if overtime included applies to you and what the stipulations are, as this is a good way of resolving some of your overtime challenges. If this is not a valid option, consider having a discussion with the employer around potential overtime payments that are agreed on in advance and set down in writing. This goes a long way towards minimising misuse on both sides.

“You can also look at what your rights are in terms of legislation,” shares Nicol. “For example, employees who earn below a certain threshold of R211,596.30 per year are assured of specific rights and provisions in law that they receive overtime pay or in lieu of any overtime. However, this is not a legal requirement for people who earn over that threshold.”

It’s a complex line to walk for employees – the dedicated team player versus excessive time spent working on projects without remuneration. Ideally, companies will recognise the value of a person’s contribution and make a plan in terms of overtime, or in reducing the time spent at work.