Big 4 - Opting in for Overtime

I am currently working for one of the big 4, subcontracted through a recruitment agency.
A simple explanation of the work entailed is ensuring that the work passed on to the regulator meets certain standards. The current project is almost over with less than a week of work left. In an attempt to boost the numbers. An overtime structure was announced where the analyst would get a fixed $ X rate if the case is easy, i.e has 1 issue that needs resolution.

But for a complex case, the pay rate would double the 'usual employee rate", regardless of completion. However, they've stated that it is at the discretion of the management whether the "hours" entered are reasonable for the case, and if discrepancies are found, they reserve the right to limit and/or not pay the amount.
The following statement was questioned by one of the "senior" team members, however, the standard response given to them was that the team members are opting to such an agreement and can choose not to partake.

No explanation is given for what constitutes a "reasonable hour" for a complex case, or what variables would the management look into. A call to have HR review the clause has been met with a veiled threat, that such an action would undermine the management and would have a consequence on the renewal of the contract.

Normally, I wouldn't care too much about this and would've stayed quite like the rest of the team members, but given that the project is ending and I am not keen on continuing, I would like to stand for what is right, even if that means "burning the bridge".
Earlier O/T structure has involved management telling us to put in X amount of hour for a complex case, regardless of the amount of time spent as it was easier for their tracking/calculation purpose, and if a case was incorrect then you would not be paid for it.
The same justification was used earlier as well, "that people have opted in". I guess nobody spoke up that time because we were still halfway through the project.

My question:
Is such an ambiguous O/T structure legal, just because people are desperate enough to opt-in?
And what should the follow-up action be to educate and empower the team members to stand up for what is right?


  • +14 votes

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  • +2 votes

    If you are subcontracted, through the recruitment agency, then your first port of call should be the recruitment agency to get this all clarified. It is in their interest to do so because it may affect how they are paid, as well. The number of hours worked should be entered accurately for a correct “paper trail”.

    Rocking the boat can be tricky. As a contractor you are in a vulnerable position so you might want to consider if you want to work there again. I’m an inveterate boat rocker. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it works best when you come from a position of strength. With large organisations the best way is to network with as many, different, areas as possible so you have an escape plan if it goes tits up. I had a few sideways moves, which were usually better anyway, and I had some very satisfying moral victories. I don’t regret my boat rocking because some of the things I stood up to were truly unacceptable, however it may well have cost me any chance to go into management. The best way to be a boat rocker is to be a valuable employee: they tolerate a bit of rabble rousing because they know you deliver. You also need to ensure the “rabble” are with you; otherwise it just sounds like you are a disgruntled employee. Best of luck.


    Remediation work… probably one of the biggest cash cows for these firms.

    I've had a few friends who did a stint in case work and most often times it isn't possible to have that fixed rate at one error due to how messy these files can be and how inexperienced some of the assessors are (undergrads).

    From the model, the time charged is to make the partner or lead's books look better and for the managers to have better metrics. If they see that the team is blowing up the O/T the managers will get reamed for it.
    It also becomes easier for them to onsell this work by going back to the client and saying we did it in X hours less than what was expected, we're efficient etc etc

    It's definitely BS as you are acting as a contractor. Given its a week away and don't wish to continue, I'd see whether rocking the boat will affect future work from the firm or recruitment agency.


    How long do you think is reasonable for a complex case based on the work that you've done previously on the project?

    But for a complex case, the pay rate would double the 'usual employee rate", regardless of completion.

    Do what you consider reasonable, if you don't complete it then stop working on it and move onto the next one. They're paying you regardless of completion anyway assuming the hours are reasonable, and if you can demonstrate that they are reasonable based on previous completed complex cases from the project then you're fine.

    If not and a significant amount of money isn't paid, take them to fair work afterwards. Doesn't sound like there will be an issue burning bridges - if they don't want to pay you and impose employee unfriendly conditions like this, you probably don't want to work for them again/have your contract renewed anyway?


    For a start, are you on an hourly or daily rate? If it's the latter then the whole reasonable amount of overtime will kick in which is vague as (unlike the APS system, for an EL1, reasonable overtime is defined between 40.01 to 54.99 or something like that…so an APS 6 with a reasonable amount of OT can earn more than an EL2 lol). If it's the former, bugger off once you've done your 7.5/8 hours or 37.5/40 hours a week.

    If I was you, I'd spam a couple of agents putting out a feeler that you're after more suitable employment. Move on, life isn't worth the hassle over a sub-optimal contract role.