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Staggered work hours

Under certain conditions, workers’ work hours can be staggered over several weeks in order to calculate overtime. The average number of work hours during the reference period must, however, be equivalent to the standard work week, which is generally 40 hours.  

Example of hours staggered over an 8-week reference period

Week 1 50 h

Calculation:

50 h + 59 h + 49 h + 0 h + 50 h + 55 h + 57 h + 0 h = 320 h/ 8 weeks = 40 h

The average number of hours worked from week 1 to week 8 is 40 h.

Therefore, the employer does not have to pay overtime.

Week 2 59 h
Week 3 49 h
Week 4 0 h
Week 5 50 h
Week 6 55 h
Week 7 57 h
Week 8 0 h

For some sectors of activity, a standard work week may be shorter or longer.

Authorization from the CNESST

To stagger the work hours of all their workers over several weeks, an employer must apply to the CNESST for authorization. In their application for authorization, the employer must: 

  • show that their company carries on its activities under special conditions 
  • indicate the benefits for their workers 
  • show that the workers are aware of the benefits  
  • provide the signature of most of the staff concerned (50% + 1) 
  • prove that the application is not a way of avoiding paying overtime at time and a half to their workers 
  • post the application and the certificate of authorization in the workplace 
  • stagger the hours over a maximum period of 8 weeks 
  • notify the CNESST of a new hire if the percentage of workers who agreed to staggered work hours is no longer equivalent to the majority 

The application for authorization must be submitted to the CNESST at least 2 months before the desired start date of the staggered hours. In the meantime, the employer must pay their workers overtime. The initial authorization (in French only) is valid for 1 year and the renewal is valid for 3 years.  

The CNESST’s authorization is not required when staggered work hours are provided for in a collective agreement or a decree.

Seasonal activities

For employers who run a company that carries on seasonal activities, the authorization starts at the same time the activities start and ends when they end. Overtime is calculated on a 2- or 4-week basis and the employer must pay their workers regular pay of 40 hours a week.

Individual agreement 

To accommodate a worker, an employer may also agree to stagger their work hours over more than one week, in particular for their personal work-life balance. In this case, the CNESST’s authorization is not required. The worker must, however, give their free and voluntary consent. For example, an employer could not make consent to staggered hours a condition of employment. Our Template (in French only) can be used to draw up an individual staggered work hours agreement. The following conditions apply: 

  • The agreement must be in writing and provide for hours to be staggered over a maximum period of 4 weeks 
  • A work week may not exceed the standard work week by more than 10 hours 
  • The worker or the employer may terminate the agreement with at least 2 weeks’ notice before the expected end of the period agreed upon 

Example of hours staggered over a 4-week period

Week 1 25 h

Calculation:

25 h + 35 h + 50 h + 50 h = 160 h / 4 weeks = 40 h

The average number of hours worked from week 1 to week 8 is 40 h.

Week 2 35 h
Week 3 50 h
Week 4 50 h

Payment of overtime

When the average number of staggered hours is higher than the standard, the employer must pay overtime at time and a half.

Example of hours staggered over a 2-week period where the employer does not have to pay overtime

Week 1 36 hours

Calculation:

36 h + 44 h / 2 weeks = 40 hours

The average number of hours corresponds to the standard provided for by law. The employer does not have to pay overtime.

Week 2 44 hours

Example of hours staggered over a 2-week period where the employer has to pay overtime

Week 1 37 hours

Calculation:

37 h + 47 h / 2 weeks = 42 hours.

The average number of hours is higher than the standard provided for by law. The employer must pay these 2 hours at time and a half.

Week 2 47 hours

Laws and regulations

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