Can An Employee Refuse To Work Weekends? You’ll Be Surprised

Let’s face it, weekend work is something that polarises people. Some work by choice, some by necessity and others by the force of their employers. That did pose a question for us though – are employers really able to require you to work the weekend and can an employee refuse?

Businesses who operate on weekends make employees work those days for the betterment of their establishment. Therefore, the business owner reserves that right. Unless you have a contract which explicitly states otherwise. Seek legal council should you believe weekend work goes against what was contractually agreed.

Follow along with this article for a full understanding of how a business owner can ensure employees are available to work weekends, though what you can do if you’d like to get away from those shifts.

Does Working Weekends Vary Among Industries?

When you accept a job, there will always be mounds of paperwork that they will require you to sign. Within this paperwork, there will be a few pages in there that will tell you what’s expectations are in place for that position.

Things like pay rate, health benefits and rules. Within what they expect of you, they generally state that you should be highly adaptable. That’s because most businesses are highly susceptible to change – their schedules in particular. When employers feel the need to switch up the schedule for the greater good, they generally do.

In today’s society in particular, turnover rates of staff continue to be high and income is impacted. There are employers out there losing good employees left and right due to the national pandemic, whilst on the other hand, it is hard to generate revenue and drive in customers when we have social distancing laws. Therefore, business owners and managers are constantly having to change operations for survival.

So you may be asked to work extra hours to generate more revenue for the business, or because of being extremely short-staffed. Sometimes there are just no other options. You have to work with what you have, the show must go on.

Therefore, we see a consistent theme across most industries where profits are at the core of what they do. Finding a job that doesn’t require you to potentially work a weekend shift is becoming harder to do. Unless you have a contract in place that specifies that you only work weekdays. That’s probably your best course for a conversation.

Related: Benefits Of Working Weekends: Why Your Mindset Needs To Shift

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State to State Variations for Weekend Work

Unfortunately, there are not many state or federal laws floating around that protects employees when it comes to having the right to refuse to work weekends.

Really, the only federal entity that is in place that mentions weekend work refers to overtime payment. This is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In fact, it states that it does not require additional payment for hours worked on the weekends. It does, however, require overtime payment of time and a half – if your overtime exceeds the 40 hour work week (source).

So, typically throughout the United States, we found all states to be consistent

Most employers do not have the option of closing up shop on the weekends – so somebody has to be there to keep business running. Fortunately, the majority of employers understand that working every weekend is not ideal, so they will try to work within your schedule as best possible.

Related post about scheduling: Alternative Work Schedules: Pros and Cons

What Does Your Contract State About Working Weekends?

This is where things can get tricky. Like I said earlier, when accepting a job it comes with a lot of paperwork. That is because your employers want to make sure that they are legally covered should an issue arise. It can also help protect you as an employee in a number of instances too.

With that being said, if your employer is one-hundred percent certain that they, under no circumstances, will have you to work weekends – they will have that in your contract. When things are written and signed in a contract it becomes legally binding. So should you want to go against what is written, it’s best to seek legal counsel.

Contracts go two ways – employers cannot change any part of a contract without advising you. This is why you should always keep a copy for yourself. Otherwise, brace yourself – if times call for it, you could be gearing up to work weekends.

Related post: Work from Home Night Shift Jobs: A Must Read Before Applying

Are Last Minute Weekend Roster Changes Allowed?

When it comes to employers giving you a notice of a change in schedule, you know as much as I do that schedules can change at the drop of a dime. That means that you can leave work on Thursday thinking you only have one day left until the weekend – come in on Friday and be scheduled to work on Saturday. That’s typically just how it works out, being short-staffed is a business issue that been going on for years!

However, where allotted, most employers try to give as much notice as possible – they really do. Employers need good employees working for them, and they need to keep as many good employees as possible. So, throwing unexpected additional hours onto employees does not typically work out in favor of the business. Therefore, they’ll try their best to keep you in a good headspace.

There are laws across the world that are being slowly put into place which prohibit employers from making a change in the schedule without providing a set notice period.

Unfortunately, there are fewer organizations that are choosing to adopt this than not. Overall, as long as employers are following the guidelines of their policies and procedures that they have set in place, they are in their rights to change what they need for the betterment of their establishment. After all, everything is written and signed by both parties – creating a contract or an understanding.

Typically, employers do understand that their employees have a life outside of work, and cannot drop their schedules whenever they are called on. That’s why I say that they are usually inclined to give as much notice as possible. Just don’t be surprised if you are asked to work an unexpected weekend every now and then.

Related post: How to Manage Shift Work and Your Social Life

Penalty Rates and Working Weekends

When employees work outside of what the workforce considers “normal business hours”, then you should generally receive extra compensation – typically time and half. This goes for working hours such as holidays. The compensation that the employee receives is known as penalty rates. The important thing to know about these rates is when they come into play and how it works.

For starters, it is important to know that within the United States there is no Federal law that is in place that forces an employee to pay holiday pay.

Employers that offer holiday pay opt to offer it as an incentive. Things like holiday pay and flexible scheduling are what employers use as their “bait,” for a lack of better words. It is what they use to get people into the door for an interview. If they can get you into the door for an interview, they have a higher possibility of getting quality employees.

Now, since the employers are upfront with you and tell you that you will be getting holiday pay, and it is written within your contract – they have to honor that. They have to pay you what they said they were going to pay you at the time of hiring. Anything other than that is a change of contract – which they have to make you aware of. You can either sign an updated contract or resign from the organization.

Those are usually the two situations that you are faced with. Keep in mind that this can vary from state to state so it is important to research your state regulations.

Benefits of Weekend Work

If you are first starting out on a weekend shift or haven’t worked it in a while, we thought this article should also include the benefits of working weekends. There’s plenty to choose from!

Financial Gains

Firstly, if you work the weekends, chances are you can receive overtime. That’s because most normal business hours, with the exception of some, occur within the weekday. This means it’s not uncommon for people to reach their forty-hour work week between Monday through Friday. Anything past that and employers are required to pay you overtime – time and a half.

Time Off During the Week

Another advantage is that if you work all weekend, chances are you are going to get some of your off time throughout the week – making it easier to run errands and schedule appointments. It allows you to get items done at a time where the majority of businesses are typically open and if you worked a standard 9-5, you wouldn’t be able to get there throughout the week.

In summary, ultimately, working during the weekends is your choice. There are jobs out there, that contractually allow you to work Monday – Friday and the business may not be open during the weekend.

Most organizations throughout the United States also operate as an “at will” facility. This means, you have the choice of working there or not.

That also means, employers are able to terminate you at will – unless based off of discriminatory grounds. So, refusing to work weekends when asked by an employer could be seen as insubordination, which could be grounds for termination.

So before making any rash decisions or statements, really sit down and be firm on the reasons why weekend work doesn’t fit with you and talk to your employer. Any solid business owner knows that – To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.

Keep reading – How To Get Out Of A Work Shift (Without Judgement)



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Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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