Overtime during peak periods: how to motivate your staff

Every seat is full in your restaurant during the holidays. 10 times more orders in your online shop during a closeout sale. Peak moments are good for your business, but they ask a lot from your employees. When you include clear agreements in the employment contract, you can expect your staff to work overtime during busy periods. But if you want to keep your employees, you also need to motivate them to pay them well for overtime. You can learn how to do that in this article.

The generations born between 2001 and 2015 (Generation Z) and the ‘Millennials’ (born between 1980 and 1999) both say that they do not want to work overtime if they do not receive extra pay. This group is also known as ‘Quiet Quitters‘ (in Dutch).

Can you require employees to work overtime? You can read about the rules below. Offering extra pay for overtime is one way to motivate your staff. But it is also important to create a pleasant work environment.

Rules for working overtime

You can ask your employees to work overtime during peak moments, but only if it is clearly arranged in their employment contract. If you use a collective labour agreement (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst, CAO), then it will include the agreements for working overtime. Do you not use a CAO? Then the individual employment contracts must include clear agreements (in Dutch) about working outside normal hours before you schedule employees to work overtime.

Maximum overtime hours

Regardless of whether your employment contracts include agreements for working overtime, you must still comply with the terms of the Working Hours Act. This includes the following rules:

  • Employees may not work more than 12 hours in a row per day, up to a maximum of 60 hours per week. And they cannot do that every week:
    • average maximum of 48 hours per week, over a period of 16 weeks,
    • average maximum of 55 hours per week, up to 4 weeks in a row.
  • You must also give your employees enough breaks. The rule is at least one 30-minute break after working for five and a half hours.

As an employer, you are required to keep good records of overtime hours worked.

Extra pay for overtime

The law does not say how much extra pay (in Dutch) your employee should receive for working overtime. But it is included in the CAO. If you do not use a CAO, you must include your own employment contract. If the employment contract does not include agreements for overtime pay, then you must make specific agreements with the employee before they can work overtime.

“We offer 50% extra pay for working weekends”, says Manon van der Ende from NON. “That is very unusual in the hospitality industry. But we feel that hospitality is a profession, and we treat our employees like professionals. Just like a doctor or a builder.”

There are different ways to compensate for overtime. You can pay the employee for the hours worked, or you can allow them to claim the overtime hours as extra leave time. If you choose to pay out the hours worked, then you can offer the normal hourly wage or an extra overtime allowance.

Van der Ende: “We offer employees time-for-time when they work overtime. Often in the very next week. When they work overtime in December, our colleagues can claim extra leave time in January. We have included that agreement in the employment contract. That is how we cover all of our peak months.”

Rewarding your employees

Good secondary benefits, extra pay or tokens of appreciation can keep your employees committed. For example, in the busy month of December, you can offer extra pay in the form of a 13th month or end-of-year bonus, or a year-end gift (in Dutch).

Tax-free gifts for overtime

Do you want to reward your employees for working overtime? If so, you can offer a tax-free gift up to a certain amount. The work-related costs scheme (WKR) refers to this as the ‘elective benefit’. You can also offer gifts for the employee’s private benefit, such as a food hamper, gift certificate or athletic membership.

Hotel accommodations

“This year, I will give all of my employees a night’s stay in Hotel New York”, says Jochem Grund, owner of Mascolori Schoenen. “I have also given Christmas hampers in the past, but that was a big mistake. I gave everyone a nice baking sheet and tasty ingredients to bake with. But I did not think about how heavy the gift was, and that it could not fit in most of our employees’ ovens. This gift is much more appreciated.”

Good work atmosphere and appreciation

Employees are more willing to make an extra effort if there is a good atmosphere at the company. You have influence on that as an employer: during peak moments you can offer extra meals, after-work drinks or an employee party at the end of a busy period. “We are not a family company, but our colleagues feel like it is”, says Van der Ende. “We host after-work drinks every 3 months, and we organise a family day once per year. At the end of a busy day, we often sit down for a drink together to relax and talk about the day.”

“We put colleagues in the spotlight to mark special moments. Like when we have set a new record. Or to celebrate a birthday. We also give a gift or send a card when it is a NON-birthday, to celebrate an employee’s work anniversary.”

Join the conversation

Do not simply expect employees to work overtime; instead, show them that you appreciate their extra effort. “Good employees can easily find another job”, says Grund. “In busy periods, you have to communicate clearly and cheerfully about what works and what does not. I also bring along a tasty treat, like oliebollen, a Dutch pastry. If you tend to curse and throw tantrums when you are stressed, then your employees will simply leave. I have learned to pay more attention to building a bond with colleagues, and to check how they are doing on a regular basis. Are you still enjoying your work? What works, and what does not? Before, I only held a performance review once per year. But then you miss the important things that happen in between.”

Prevent stress and reduce employees’ workload

Stress and extra workloads are a real danger during peak periods. As an employer, you are responsible for creating a safe and healthy working environment. Do not let your employees work too long, and join the conversation with your staff to prevent them from calling in sick due to stress or a heavy workload.

“We check how our colleagues are doing almost every week, and during peak periods we pay extra attention to everyone”, says Van der Ende. “When one colleague is under too much pressure, we look for ways to adjust the schedule to help them recover. We also hold a survey once per year, so that colleagues can say what is on their minds and offer tips for creating an even more pleasant workplace. I think that is why we have so little absenteeism at NON. We also have not had any long-term absenteeism over the past few years.”

Spread and share the burdens

“When you have a small company, it is especially important to have all-round employees during peak periods”, explains Grund. “For example, I have 2 designers in-house. But when it is busy, they also help pack boxes, serve coffee to customers or organise small events in the shop. That way, we can share the burden. And we spread out our clearance sales over a longer period. On Black Friday, for example, we get 30 times as many orders as a normal day. That is great, but it is also stressful. By spreading discount sales over the week, instead of during a single day, we can reduce our workload.”

“During peak months, our colleagues work a maximum of 1 day in the weekend. And we spread out the evening shifts”, says Van der Ende. “Since we know that the Christmas season is busier, we stop taking reservations at a certain point. That way we can draw up the schedule and inform the team in time.”