What happens if you work too much overtime?

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In Sweden, as in many other countries, working overtime is common. What happens if you work too much overtime? The extra hours an employee works beyond their regular working hours are called overtime, and there are several different types of overtime.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the legal regulations for overtime work in Sweden, the compensation for overtime work, employees’ rights and choices, consequences of working too much overtime, and additional things that may be good to know regarding overtime.

What does the law say about working overtime?

The Working Hours Act sets out the rules and regulations regarding the maximum number of working hours and overtime that employees are allowed to work, as well as the compensation they are entitled to. The law also includes provisions on breaks, rest days, and other aspects of working hours and overtime in Sweden.

Number of hours per week

According to the Working Hours Act, employees are not allowed to work more than 48 hours per week, including any overtime work. This limit is in place to protect employees from becoming overworked and burnt out.

There are some exceptions to this rule for certain professions and industries, such as healthcare and transportation, where employees may need to work more hours to ensure the safety and well-being of others.

Consecutive working days

Employees are also protected by rules that limit the number of consecutive days they can work without having a rest day. According to these rules, an employee may not work more than five days in a row without having a break of at least 36 hours.

This requirement is in place to ensure that employees have sufficient time for rest and recovery between work periods, which can help prevent fatigue and health issues.

Number of hours without a break

The Working Hours Act also includes rules about how many hours an employee can work without taking a break. Specifically, employees are not allowed to work more than five hours in a row without taking a rest.

Amount of overtime per year and month

But what happens if you work too much overtime over the course of a year? Per calendar month, the limit is 50 hours, and 48 hours over a 4-week period. The maximum amount of overtime, both voluntary and mandatory, that an employee can work in a year is 200 hours. Under certain circumstances, employees may be allowed to work an additional 150 hours of overtime.

The purpose of this regulation is to protect employees from being overworked and to promote a healthy work-life balance. Employers who violate these provisions may face fines or other penalties.

Overtime compensation and benefits

According to the Working Hours Act, employees generally have the right to overtime compensation for all hours worked beyond their regular working hours. Overtime compensation can be provided either through extra pay or time off. The specific form of compensation depends on the collective agreement between the employer and the employee or the employer’s policy.

Definition and calculation of overtime compensation

The standard method of calculating overtime compensation in Sweden is to divide your monthly salary by 94 for each worked hour until 8:00 PM on a weekday evening. For example, if you have a monthly salary of 25,000 SEK and are required to work overtime from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on a Monday evening, your overtime compensation for those two hours would be:

2 hours x 25,000 SEK / 94 = 532 SEK

Alternatively, if you prefer to receive compensation in the form of time off, you can choose to take your overtime compensation as compensatory leave, commonly known as “comp time.” You would then get to take each overtime hour as 1.5 hours of compensatory leave, which is 150%. In the example above, it would mean three hours of compensatory leave for two hours of overtime work.

Please note that this may vary among different employers and working hours.

Factors that can affect overtime pay

Generally, overtime compensation is based on an employee’s regular hourly wage plus a percentage increase. The percentage increase may vary depending on the time of day, day of the week, and whether the overtime work is voluntary or mandatory. For example, overtime work on a weekday evening or weekend may be compensated with a higher rate than work performed during regular working hours.

Alternative compensation for overtime

There are certain exceptions to the requirement of overtime compensation in certain professions or industries. For instance, some executives or employees in managerial positions may not be entitled to overtime compensation. These exceptions are subject to collective agreements or other employment contracts.

Some companies also choose to compensate their workers in other ways, such as through holiday dinners, gift cards, and similar types of benefits.

Employee rights and opportunities

The employees have a lot of rights and opportunities when it comes to overtime. It can vary greatly depending on the industry and specific situation.

Do employees have the option to refuse overtime?

If it were possible for the employer to resolve the situation in another way, there may be grounds to refuse overtime.

Voluntary overtime

The rules for voluntary overtime differ slightly from mandated overtime. In this case, it is entirely voluntary for the employee to participate or not. It is often an option that many employers offer before requesting mandated overtime.


Employers have many restrictions to follow when it comes to overtime. Below are important examples:

  • at least 36 hours of continuous free time per week, per employee
  • no more than 200 hours of general overtime per year
  • maximum 150 hours of extra overtime per year
  • maximum 50 hours of overtime per month or 48 hours over a four-week period.

In addition to this, there are further restrictions regulated by the Working Hours Act.

Consequences of working too much overtime

What happens if you work too much overtime? Working overtime can have various consequences, both for an individual employee’s health and for the employer’s workplace culture.

Health risks

One of the most immediate consequences of overtime work is increased fatigue and the risk of burnout. Extended working hours can lead to physical and mental fatigue, which can negatively impact the employee’s performance and concentration. Chronic overtime work has also been linked to increased levels of stress and burnout, which, in turn, can lead to depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases.

Long-term implications

Another potential consequence of working too much overtime is a disruption in the work-life balance. Lengthy work hours can leave employees with less time to spend with family and friends or engage in leisure activities, which can exacerbate existing mental issues and lead to a decrease in overall life satisfaction.

A few more important points regarding overtime

How many hours of overtime are allowed per year? According to the Working Hours Act, it is not allowed to let an employee work more than 200 hours of general overtime per year. However, the employer has the option to extend this time, under certain specific circumstances, by 150 hours per year.

Can an employee receive fines or other types of punishment if these rules are violated?

An employee cannot receive fines for working too much overtime. However, the employer may be required to pay penalty fees if this law is violated.

Emphasize work-life balance

Work-life balance is important for both individuals and organizations and crucial for individual well-being and mental health.

So, what happens if you work too much overtime? Well, overexertion can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, stress, and burnout. At the same time, personal time and activities can help individuals develop new skills, enhance creativity, and gain a broader perspective on work-related issues.

Employers who prioritize work-life balance are more likely to attract and retain highly skilled and motivated employees. Overall, work-life balance is a critical component in maintaining a healthy and sustainable work environment that promotes employee well-being.

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