Seeking Overtime Exemption


What reasons can a company in Singapore give to the authorities to seek exemptions from overtime?


It is important to understand that seeking an exemption from overtime is a regulated process overseen by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore.

Companies must ensure that any request for exemption is reasonable, meets legal requirements, and gives priority to the health and well-being of their employees. Regardless of whether employees work beyond their regular hours, they must receive fair compensation and rest periods.

Singapore companies may apply for exemptions from overtime based on their specific circumstances based on the following common reasons:

Project Deadlines

If the company is working on time-sensitive projects or contracts with strict deadlines, they may request exemptions from overtime to ensure timely completion without incurring excessive costs.

These companies have critical projects with tight deadlines that require employees to work longer hours temporarily to ensure project completion on time. This is often seen in construction, software development, and event management.

Say, a construction firm in Singapore secures a government contract to build a new MRT line. With strict deadlines set by the Land Transport Authority, the company may need to work around the clock during certain project phases such as tunnelling or station construction. By seeking exemptions from overtime regulations, the company can ensure the timely completion of the project without incurring penalties for delays.

Seasonal Workloads

Some businesses experience peak periods where the demand for their products or services significantly increases, necessitating extended work hours beyond the usual cap to meet the surge in demand. Businesses that experience fluctuating workloads due to seasonal demands may seek exemptions from overtime during peak periods to manage resources efficiently.

A retail company experiences a significant increase in sales during the holiday season. To meet customer demand and maintain service levels, the company may need to extend store hours and have employees work overtime. During this period, the company can manage its workforce and meet customer needs without incurring excessive labour costs by seeking overtime regulation exemptions.

A logistics company experiences a surge in orders during the annual Great Singapore Sale. To handle the increased volume of deliveries and meet customer expectations, the company may need to extend warehouse operating hours and have delivery drivers work overtime. Seeking exemptions from overtime regulations during this peak period allows the company to efficiently manage its logistics operations without exceeding labour costs.

Industry Norms

Certain industries may have established practices or norms where overtime exemptions are common, especially in sectors with irregular work schedules or production requirements.

Industries like hospitality and healthcare frequently necessitate irregular work schedules due to their 24/7 operations or unpredictable patient demands. For example, hospitals may be required to schedule nurses for overtime shifts amid peak periods of patient admissions or emergencies. Seeking exemptions from overtime regulations allows the hospital to maintain sufficient staffing levels without infringing labour laws.

In the hospitality sector, hotels in Singapore often experience fluctuating demand due to events like the Singapore Grand Prix or major conferences. During peak periods, hotels may need to roster additional staff for housekeeping, front desk, and F&B services. Seeking exemptions from overtime regulations enables hotels to maintain service standards and accommodate guest needs without violating labour laws.

Employee Agreement

If employees agree to alternative compensation structures or flexible work arrangements, the company may request exemptions from overtime pay.

A technology startup offers its employees the chance to work flexible hours in return for equity stakes in the company. During important stages of product development or software launches, employees may voluntarily work extra hours to meet project goals. By fulfilling these agreements and requesting exemptions from overtime regulations, the company can benefit from employee dedication and creativity without incurring additional labour costs.

Training or Skills Development

If employees need to attend training or skill development programs that require additional work hours, the company may ask for exemptions from overtime regulations to facilitate these activities.

A financial services firm in Singapore offers employees opportunities for professional development and skills enhancement. During off-peak periods, the company organises training workshops and seminars to upgrade employees’ financial modelling skills. By seeking exemptions from overtime regulations, the company can invest in employee training and knowledge enrichment without incurring additional labour expenses.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

Companies bound by collective bargaining agreements with unions or employee representatives may negotiate exemptions from overtime regulations as part of the overall labour agreement.

In the manufacturing sector, unions negotiate collective bargaining agreements with management to establish fair working conditions and compensation structures. Under these agreements, companies may implement flexible work arrangements during periods of high demand or seasonal peaks. By adhering to the terms of the collective bargaining agreements and seeking exemptions from overtime regulations as outlined, companies can foster harmonious labour relations and ensure mutual benefits for both employers and employees.

Business Continuity

In situations where business continuity is at risk, such as critical maintenance or repair work, exemptions from overtime regulations may be necessary to ensure uninterrupted operations.

An airline maintenance facility may need to conduct routine aircraft inspections or repairs during off-peak hours to minimize disruptions to flight schedules. By requesting exemptions from overtime regulations, the company can schedule maintenance activities during overnight shifts without incurring additional labour costs, thus ensuring uninterrupted operations and passenger safety.

Technological Upgrades or Installations

Companies undergoing technological upgrades or installations may require extended working hours to minimize disruption to normal business operations, justifying exemptions from overtime regulations.

A data centre in Singapore is upgrading its server infrastructure to accommodate the growing demand for cloud services. To minimize downtime and complete the installation within a tight timeframe, the company may need to schedule overtime shifts for IT engineers and technicians. Seeking exemptions from overtime regulations allows the data centre to expedite the upgrade process without compromising service reliability or incurring excessive labour costs.

Emergency Situations

During emergencies such as natural disasters or unforeseen events, companies may need to extend working hours to address urgent tasks or maintain essential services, warranting exemptions from overtime regulations.

Following heavy rainfall and flooding in certain areas of Singapore, utility companies may need to deploy repair crews to restore water and electricity supply. Emergency situations like these require workers to work overtime to address infrastructure damage and ensure public safety. Seeking exemptions from overtime regulations allows utility companies to respond promptly to crises and minimize disruption to essential services.

These examples demonstrate how companies in Singapore may justify exemptions from overtime regulations based on specific business requirements and regulatory frameworks unique to the country. It’s essential for companies to navigate these considerations carefully while upholding labour standards and fostering positive relationships with employees and regulatory authorities.


In the context of seeking overtime exemption in Singapore, which of the following is a critical factor that HR professionals must consider when drafting exemption requests?

Compliance with labor laws and regulations: 70.59%

Implementing strict disciplinary measures: 29.41%


If a manufacturing company in Singapore needs to extend working hours to meet project deadlines, which of the following reasons would be most appropriate for seeking overtime exemption?

To minimize production disruptions: 100.00%


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