Overtime work - can an employee refuse?


Working overtime at the request of the employer, in accordance with the law, is the responsibility of the employee. However, in some cases, an employee may refuse to work overtime.

Overtime work

The provisions of the labor law limit the necessity to work overtime by specifying the situations in which such work may be performed. It is only allowed if:

  • the need to conduct a rescue operation in order to protect human life or health, protect property or the environment, or remove a failure,

  • the special needs of the employer.

When managing overtime, the employer must do so clearly and understandably for the employee. Working overtime, as obeying the employer's instructions, is the employee's responsibility, because according to the provisions of the Labor Code, the employee is obliged to follow the employer's instructions.

Art. 100 § 1 of the Labor Code

The employee is obliged to perform the work conscientiously and diligently and to follow the instructions of his superiors concerning work, if they are not contrary to the provisions of law or the employment contract.

No overtime work

An employee may refuse to work overtime if he / she belongs to the group of people prohibited or limited to this work.

Overtime work is strictly prohibited in the case of work:

  • above the limit of 150 overtime hours in a calendar year (Article 151 § 3 of the Labor Code) - applies to overtime due to the special needs of the employer,

  • employees working at workplaces where the maximum permissible concentrations or intensities of factors harmful to health are exceeded (Article 151 § 2 of the Labor Code) - applies to overtime due to the special needs of the employer,

  • pregnant employees (Article 178 § 1 of the Labor Code),

  • juvenile employees (Article 203 § 1 of the Labor Code).

The prohibition of overtime work also applies to employees caring for a child until the age of 4, unless the employee agrees to work overtime. Only one of the parents or guardians can exercise this right.

Also in the case of disabled people, the regulations prohibit working overtime, unless:

  • a disabled employee is employed to supervise,

  • a doctor who carries out preventive examinations of the employee, and in the event of his absence, the doctor who takes care of this person will agree not to apply the prohibition.

Then it is possible to work overtime by disabled employees.

When can an employee refuse to work overtime?

The employee may refrain from working, including overtime, if the working conditions do not comply with health and safety regulations and pose a direct threat to health or life.

The employee may also refuse to work overtime, in a situation where the order for such work has been issued despite the existence of an absolute ban on overtime.

Refusal to work overtime is also justified if the employer's order is contrary to the principles of social coexistence, i.e. the need to care for a sick family member. In the event of a dispute, the issue of the principles of social coexistence is resolved by the labor court.

Consequences of the employee's refusal

Unjustified refusal to comply with the employer's order, the essence of which is overtime work, constitutes a breach of employee obligations. Therefore, the employee may be punished by the employer with one of the sanctions. Refusal to work overtime may also be the basis for termination of the employment contract.