How Different Are US and UK Labour Laws?

us and uk relationship

Earlier this year, President Obama raised the threshold for overtime paid to American workers to any worker making $970 per week or less. This disgruntled corporate America because it appears to be a move that will cost companies a lot more money in paid salaries. Prior to the law change, the U.S. overtime payment threshold was $455 per week or less. But did Americans really have it that bad when the overtime payment threshold was $455 per week?

American Overtime Laws

The overtime laws in the United States were changed to reflect some of the needs of employees, but some of the old ways of paying an employee based on their title were left unchanged.

While some supervisory and managerial titles were included in the new laws, the new rules still do allow for certain types of managerial positions to be paid salaries without overtime. Despite leaving certain parts of the overtime laws intact, American workers, in general, will significantly benefit from the changes made to the overtime payment threshold.

An Overview of U.K. Overtime Laws

American workers would have to adjust to the way things are done here in the U.K. if they ever decided to take up work overseas. In the U.K., workers are not allowed to work more than 48 hours in any given week, unless they have signed a contract agreeing to work the extra hours. No matter how many hours a worker puts in every week, their average hourly pay must not go below the U.K. mandatory rate. There are no laws in place in the U.K. that mandate how much a worker is to get paid for overtime work.

When a worker in the U.K. works more than 40 hours a week, they are not offered any extra incentive to their hourly rate. In some cases, employers may give extra paid time off to workers who agree to put in extra hours, but there is no law forcing U.K. companies to pay overtime to workers who put in more than 40 hours per week.

Methods Of Getting Around The American System

The U.K. system of overtime can make the U.S. system look generous. However, as generous as American overtime laws can seem, there are still employers who attempt to cheat the system. Many employers will ask employees to work “off the clock,” which means employees must put in hours, but they do not get paid for them.

According to, there are some cases where employers will put certain employees “on-call” and call those employees into work at all hours of the day. When an employee is on-call, they are supposed to be allowed to go back home when the task they were called in for is completed. But some employers keep employees on-call in the building where they work without paying for the hours the employees are kept waiting. This is a violation of U.S. labour laws, but it happens all of the time.

U.K. employers also attempt to use similar ways to get free work out of employees, but British culture often gets in the way of greed. The British enjoy their free time, and employers who attempt to violate that free time are generally reported to the government by frustrated employees. It is a type of behaviour frowned upon in the United States, but it is more common in the U.K.

Overtime laws vary from country to country. Some countries, such as the United States, have elaborate overtime laws that are applied to every company in every state. Other countries, such as the U.K., have more relaxed labour laws and do not allow workers to get compensated for working more than a 40-hour work week.

Author Bio:

Tim Becker is a partner at Minneapolis’ Johnson // Becker PLLC and is the lead sponsor of He has over 20 years of trial experience and has proven himself to be a tireless advocate for worker rights. Becker is committed to providing his clients effective and aggressive legal representation.