Overtime for answering email out of hours? What about Tweeting?

Brazil has passed a law allowing workers to ask for overtime for answering emails out of working hours. What does that mean for workers responding to corporate social media communications?

Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, passed a law last month that allowed workers to ask for overtime if they answered emails out of working hours.

According to TheStar.com, new legislation says that company emails to workers are equivalent to orders given directly to the employee and that they are entitled to ask for overtime pay. Brazil is not alone in respecting employees wishes to have some email free time out of working hours.

Volkswagen has also respected union wishes and turned off push email to workers' BlackBerrys out of hours. Volkswagen turned off notifications after pressure from the unions, not from legislation.

Global adoption?

But this is a new law. And it might be a precedent. Other countries might decide to follow Brazils' lead and adopt similar legislation.

This raises a few questions for those involved in social activities and community management for their bosses.  Do these other activities also classify as 'work'?

You might spend time throughout the evening, dealing with company social media feeds, responding to comments on blogs, dealing with customer queries and monitoring nascent PR issues.

If so, then it can reasonably be classed as 'work' -- especially if social CRM is part of your job.  Heck, I'm even writing this post 'out of hours' for my local time zone. Would I be able to ask for overtime too?

Flexible working

We are, however, living through a global recession. Would you really feel comfortable asking your employer for overtime?  Are you secure enough in your work to do this for answering emails and responding to customer tweets out of hours?

Asking for overtime doesn't necessarily mean that you will receive any extra pay -- in fact, many employment contracts include a section or clause asking you to work outside of your normal working hours.

For example, a company might include wording stating that 'your working hours will be 'x' to 'x' 'and all other hours that may be necessary to complete your work'

What about workers with caring responsibilities? You might leave work early to collect children, or to care for a relative. You might even leave work early to avoid rush hour traffic.

You might catch up with email and social feeds at home later in the evening, after dinner perhaps. When would you start to claim overtime? I can see the potential for a fair few arguments.

Brazil has been bold in creating this legislation. I don't think any other country will implement a similar law. Imagine the furore and resistance from some.

But if it does become law, how would your company manage the demands of your workforce, and as a worker, would you demand your overtime pay?

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