Many lack courage to refuse weekend work requests from boss

By Khong Chin   May 7, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
In Germany, whenever my husband’s bosses want to ask about anything related to work on the weekend, they have to text and email first to ask for permission to bother him.

I strongly sympathize with the frustration many people have when asked to work on the weekend. My husband is German, working in a mid-level management position. Before the pandemic, his company stipulated that employees could only work a maximum of 10 hours a day. Every employee has to check in and out when they arrive or leave.

If anyone stays in the office for more than 10 hours, his or her immediate boss will receive complaints from HR for unreasonable allocation of work.

During and after the pandemic, the company used software to track staff working hours. If the system found you are working more than 10 hours a day, it would conclude that either your boss assigned too much work with an unreasonable deadline, or you were incapable of finishing the task on time. Both required reports to explain what happened.

Every time bosses want to ask something related to work outside regular hours, they text or email my husband first to see if he has 20-30 minutes for a discussion. They never impose a task and force him to work outside office hours.

He receives salary increases upon regular positive employee reviews. He enjoys the company’s benefits in full. When he goes on a business trip, he is often busier and has to work up to 12 hours a day, but he has the right to report to his boss directly to accumulate the extra working hours and get breaks on other days.

When I was a student, I worked in a restaurant in Austria. My shift ended at 10 p.m. But one day, there was an unusually large number of guests and everyone was very busy. But my boss, a Greek, pointed to the clock and asked me to go home because my shift was over.

I offered to stay a little longer to help and did not ask for extra payment. But my boss said it was his job to coordinate personnel for such situations, and my job was to leave at the end of my shift. He made sure everyone left on time, and in return, he was not satisfied if someone came to work late.

I talked to my friends and they said my boss did not necessarily care for my wellbeing, but might be afraid that if he had let me work late, I would have complained to the Department of Labor later. That could really hurt his business because Austria's labor unions are very powerful.

I saw the logic in my friends’ explanation. In Vietnam, many labor unions do not really protect the rights of workers, leaving businesses to abuse the enthusiasm of employees and consider working overtime as a matter of course, and that one must devote extra to the company to get a promotion or the like.

I understand the differences between Vietnam’s and Germany or Austria’s working environment, but I am giving these examples so everyone can see, it is completely wrong for a boss to assign work after hours without agreement from the employee, or overtime pay.

It is not wrong for employees to turn off their phones and refuse to accept overtime.

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