There might be a question running through your mind: “What is the difference between contracted and real hours?” Many workers are putting in far more or far fewer hours than what is specified in their employment contract, and they could be unsure of their legal position about working hour regulations. 

Even though the actual number of hours performed may differ from the contracted number of hours each week, the number of hours contracted to an employee is the least amount that their employer is required to provide and pay for. 

Understanding the Difference

Contractual hours are usually outlined in an employment contract given to an employee upon beginning a new career. The terms of this contract will specify how, when, and where the agreed-upon hours are to be worked.  

Moreover, it will specify any obligations for overtime, vacation time, and sick leave. Staff may discover that they work more or fewer hours per week than they were contracted to during their employment. “Actual hours” would be the total of those hours that were worked.  

Continue reading to learn more about contracted hours and the reasons they could differ from the actual hours worked. 

What are Contracted Hours?  

The predetermined number of hours for which an employer is required by contract to provide employment and compensate an employee is known as contracted hours.  

Furthermore, contractual hours are the number of hours that an employee is required to work during a typical workweek, barring any special agreements that may have been reached, such switching shifts with a coworker. Your employer must pay you in lieu of the minimal number of hours if they are unable to provide them before. 

The number of hours worked is often specified in the employment contract, if one is in place, however, leaves and holidays sometimes cause the actual number of hours worked to differ from the contracted amount. 

For instance, if a worker’s employment contract specifies that they would work a 35-hour workweek, the employer is required to give them the chance to work those hours. They will be in violation of the agreement if they are unable to do so. Likewise, a worker may be in violation of their employment contract if they don’t put in their complete 35 hours. 

What are Actual Hours?  

Real or actual hours are the hours that an employee works in each period, independent of the kind of labor, if contracted hours are the least number of hours that an employer is required to pay an employee. As well as whether the hours worked deviate from any typical shift schedule that could be in place. 

The number of actual hours worked can vary depending on several factors, such as overtime, yearly leave, sick leave, or other absences, and increased burden. When it comes to overtime, some businesses incorporate clauses requiring the employer to put in more time at work under specific circumstances in their employment contracts.  

However, overtime is typically an elective aspect and is encouraged by incentives to encourage workers to put in more time. 

For example, if a worker signed a contract for 35 hours per week but performed five hours of overtime, they may have put in 40 hours (about 1 and a half days) that week, for which the employer would be responsible for paying. 

Additionally, employers will differ in how they compute and report actual hours worked. Any time a person works for the company, regardless of whether they utilize a clocking system or manual timesheets, they must be paid at the rate specified in their employment contract. 

Zero Hours Contracts 

A sort of employment contract wherein there is no minimum number of working hours that the employer is compelled to offer or pay the employee for is referred to as a “zero hours contract.” 

Unlike a standard employment contract, this one stipulates that the employee will only be paid for the hours employees work and that they are under no obligation to take any hours offered to them. 

In businesses where demand for services might fluctuate, such as hospitality, gig, delivery driving, warehouse, and caregiving, shift and time fluctuations are frequent. Employers and employees can quickly increase or decrease employment numbers or income under a zero-hours contract. 

Law About Hours Worked 

Depending on their age and the nature of their job, employees are subject to stringent guidelines regarding the maximum number of hours they can work in each week.  

In determining the amount of overtime that can be granted or designing shift schedules for workers, employers must consider the regulations listed below as well as any additional requirements that may apply to their business.  

Likewise, employees must follow these guidelines as well, thus if they work many jobs, it is their duty to make sure they are not working too much. 

The working time regulations law states:  

  • The average working hours are 48 hours (about 2 days) per week. This average is usually calculated over 17 weeks (about 4 months) unless they do any job not covered by the law on working hours.  
  • Individuals under 18 can’t work for more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours (about 1 and a half days) a week.  

If you work a variable number of hours per week, you might be wondering how to calculate your working average. The average number of hours worked over a 17-week period is obtained by dividing the total number of hours worked by 17. This will allow you to determine an individual’s weekly working hours. 

Working More than the Average  

Employers may require workers over the age of 18 to put in more than 48 hours per week on average, although this requires the worker to “opt out” of the 48-hour rules.  

Additionally, workers are free to turn down requests from their employer to work longer than the average 48 hours without facing repercussions or termination. 

The exceptions to the rules are air transport jobs, lorry, bus and coach drivers and crew, river and lake transport, and seafaring jobs. Owing to their nature, all these jobs have their own working time laws. 

Keeping Track of Actual Hours Worked 

Having a trustworthy system in place to monitor and record the number of hours worked is essential, regardless of how frequently one’s working patterns change at work. Employers and employees must be aware of the real hours worked to ensure that workers receive the proper compensation when their contracted hours and actual hours worked differ. 

Options for logging hours worked: 

  • Biometric clock-in 
  • Mobile Apps 
  • Pen and paper  
  • Time clocks 
  • Browser plug-ins and URL tracking  

Benefits of Tracking Hours Worked  

Some employees only work when they are required to. However, there are many benefits for both employers and employees, if you keep track of their hours worked. These include salaried employees who receive a fixed amount per month no matter how many hours they work. 

Some benefits of tracking working hours are given here: 

  • Helps making better staffing decisions  
  • Helps staff to take the time off when they need  
  • Ensures payroll accuracy  
  • Calculates profitability by client or business area by comparing salary costs with revenue generated  
  • Ensures working time regulations are being met carefully 

Final Thoughts 

The guaranteed working hours specified in an employment contract between an employer and employee are called contracted hours.  

The number of hours an employee works is known as their “actual hours,” which can vary from the hours they were contracted to work.  

Laws governing employment hours, such as those that mandate an average working week of 48 hours over 17 weeks, govern employment hours; nevertheless, certain industries or roles are exempt.  

While contracted hours serve as a foundational agreement between employers and employees, tracking actual hours worked provides valuable insights into productivity and resource allocation.  

Hence, by reconciling contracted and actual hours, organizations can optimize scheduling practices and ensure fair compensation for employees. Thus, creating a more efficient and harmonious work environment.