How Is Overtime Calculated: A Brief Guide


Overtime payment is a tricky subject, and is often the cause of a lot of headache for accountants and business owners everywhere. There are so many factors to consider that a simple task of calculating overtime pay can turn into a complex mathematical equation.

Before we dive deeper into the subject, let’s start with the basics and define what overtime actually is.

If an employee works more than a certain number of hours per pay period, which in most cases is a week, these extra hours are called overtime. Overtime hours are paid at a higher rate than regular hours. But there are exceptions to this, such as the state of California, where any time worked in excess of 8 hours per day is considered overtime.

The standard workweek length can also vary by country. It is 44 hours in Canada, 40 hours in the United States (and most other countries of the world), 38 hours in the UK, and just 35 hours in France. Employees can also work shifts, part-time, or have flexible schedules, and be paid by project or a piece of work produced and still be entitled to overtime pay.

Banked Overtime

In countries like Canada, employees can receive paid time off work instead of overtime pay. This is sometimes referred to as banked overtime, or time off in lieu.

Should an employee agree to bank their overtime hours, they must be given 1.5 hours of paid time off work for every hour of overtime worked. However, this paid time off must be taken within 3 months of the week when the overtime was earned.

Overtime Rates: Time-And-A-Half or Double Time?

In most cases, overtime pay rate is 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay, which is commonly referred to as “time and a half”.

A notable exception is (again) the state of California, where employees who work more than 8 and up to 12 hours per day get paid at one and a half rate, while any hours beyond the 12 hour limit are paid at a double their standard rate.

If an employee in California works seven consecutive days, they are entitled to double time pay after the first 8 hours on the seventh day.

Overtime Eligibility

Depending on their specific job duties, some employees may not be eligible for overtime pay. Since employers are liable for any unpaid overtime, they must carefully determine whether their staff is exempt or nonexempt from overtime pay.

In the United States, an employee is considered exempt if they meet certain criteria established in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • Being on a salary
  • Working in an administrative, executive, professional, or outside sales position
  • Being paid more than the minimum threshold of $35,568 per year or $684 per week

Exempt classification works on a case-by-case basis and is not based solely on the job title of the employee, or the fact that they’re salaried.

Calculating Overtime Pay

To accurately calculate overtime pay for an employee, we’ll need to determine their regular hourly rate of pay first, as it will serve as the basis for further calculations. Once we’ve done that, the rest should be pretty straightforward.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common scenarios:

Single hourly rate

An employee is paid $20 per hour, and works 50 hours in one week. Their overtime pay is calculated as follows:

$20 x 1.5 (overtime rate) x 10 hours (overtime) = $300

$800 + $300 = $1100 (total)

Multiple hourly rates

An employee does two different jobs for the same employer at different rates. In one week they work 20 hours for $20 per hour and 30 hours at $30 per hour. Their regular pay rate for that week will be the weighted average of the two, with overtime calculated as follows:

$20 x 20 hours + $30 x 30 hours = $1300

$1300 / 50 hours = $26

$26 x 1.5 (overtime rate) x 10 hours (overtime) = $390

$1300 + $390 = $1690 (total)

Daily rate

An employee works 5 days a week and is paid $100 per day with 50 hours worked in one week. To calculate their regular rate, we’ll need to take the total of their weekly earnings and divide it by the number of hours they worked. Their overtime pay will be calculated as follows:

$100 x 5 = $500

$500 / 50 hours = $10 (regular rate)

$10 x 1.5 (overtime rate) x 10 hours (overtime) = $150

$500 + $150 = $650 (total) 

Piece rate

An employee is paid $10 per piece of product created, and creates 150 pieces in a 50-hour week. We’ll need to add the total piece rate earned by the employee in a week, and then divide it by the number of hours worked to find out their regular rate for that week. The resulting overtime pay calculations will look as follows:

150 pieces x $10 = $1500

$1500 / 50 hours = $30 (regular rate)

$30 x 1.5 (overtime rate) x 10 hours (overtime) = $450

$1500 + $450 = $1950 (total)

Weekly rate

An employee with a fixed schedule earns a weekly salary of $600. Their typical workweek is 40 hours, but in one specific week, they work 50 hours. To calculate their regular hourly rate, we simply need to divide their weekly salary by the normal hours of work during that week. Their overtime pay will be calculated as follows:

$600 / 40 = $15 (regular rate)

$15 x 1.5 (overtime rate) x 10 hours (overtime) = $225

$600 + $225 = $825 (total)

Automating Overtime Calculations

Okay, so now that we’re familiar with the factors that go into overtime calculation, and know how it applies to the most typical cases, it’s a good time to think about how you’d like to proceed going forward.

There’s the old-fashioned way of Excel or a calculator with a piece of paper, or – if you are serious about reducing overhead — a more modern approach that consists of adopting a specialized timekeeping solution.

With a simple timesheet application like actiTIME, you can automate overtime calculations and get instant access to current work data for each employee.

The view time track interface in time tracker actiTIME

With detailed charts and reports, you can get a quick breakdown of your team’s overtime hours and associated costs for a specific period.

Overtime tracking in actiTIME


Calculating overtime is a fairly straightforward process for the most part, but as always, the devil is in the details. Employee eligibility, work schedules, rates, and the constantly changing legislation – there’s so much information you have to keep in mind to ensure that accuracy of your calculations, that implementing a time keeping solution to keep track of your team’s overtime may just be what you need!

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