CHEA Sophal, RADU Mares

Excessively long working hours are a symbol of exploitative working conditions. In industries that have outsourced production to low wage countries (e.g. textiles, footwear, electronics) and that respond to fast changing consumer preferences (e.g. ‘fast fashion’ industry), employees in supplier factories work excessive hours, especially during peak periods. National laws and international standards that prescribe 40-48 hours working weeks and allow a moderate amount of overtime are routinely disregarded. Excessive overtime makes workers tired, which in turn can trigger accidents (chapter 20). Leading companies recognize that merely increasing audits on suppliers is unlikely to be successful and therefore offer support to factories’ management to increase their productivity. Migrant workers (chapter 21) are particularly exposed to overtime as they might feel inclined to work longer hours to maximize their income for a few years in factories before returning home. How voluntary such overtime is remains questionable if workers are remunerated at exploitatively low levels in the first place (chapter 17). Leading companies have developed indicators to ensure that overtime is actually voluntary. They also recognize that their own purchasing practices – the way they place orders with suppliers – can create unnecessary peak periods when workers must work extra-long hours to meet deadlines. Brands doing better forecasting and planning as part of their due diligence (chapters 8-14) can reduce such peak periods in supplier factories.

Cambodia has not yet ratified ILO conventions related to working time (i.e. Convention No. 1 on Working Hours (Industry), and Convention No.30 on Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices)). Cambodian Labour Law regulates working hours at eight hours per day or 48 hours per week.  However the majority of workers in the garment sector work excessive hours. The law automatically exempts some sectors from its general overtime limits and allows higher limits (two hours per day and 200-300 hours per year). Even so, the most common non-compliance is that garment factories allow more than maximum 2 hours of overtime during the peak production period. Cambodia does not have collective bargaining agreements favourable to employees, as most of these agreements simply reconfirm minimum legal provisions without added protections on working hours. To improve the situation, working hour limits and the entitlement of flexible working hours could probably be covered under the establishments’ internal regulations or employment contracts.

Main Aspects

  • Hours of work (per day and per week)
  • Overtime: voluntary/forced
  • Overtime compensation
  • Part-time work
  • “Zero-hours” contracts (on-call work, hiring workers with no guarantee of work)
  • Principle of weekly rest
  • Principle of equal treatment (of part-time workers with full-time workers)
  • Work– life balance and health of workers
  • Exceptional circumstances (that justify overtime)
  • Record keeping (and falsification of working hours)
  • Purchasing practices (of buyer companies)
  • Paid annual leave


ILO, Labour Protection in a Transforming World of Work[1]

55. Long working hours not only have profound consequences on workers who have little influence over their jobs or work environment (such as domestic workers), but they also affect workers who have more discretion and who receive higher compensation (such as bankers and lawyers). For others, often the problem is not that they have too many hours, but rather that they have too few, affecting their income security, or hours that are so varied that it is difficult for them to organize their personal and family responsibilities.

56. Long working hours prompted the first regulations on working time; today most countries have national limits on working time, overtime, overtime pay and annual leave. Nevertheless, many workers do not benefit from these protections either because they are self-employed and thus excluded from the scope of labour laws, because they are in an occupational category that is sometimes exempted from the law, or because they work in informal or formal employment arrangements where the law is not complied with.

68. Two other important challenges in working time are variable and unpredictable hours, especially on-call work, and the growing encroachment of work into personal time as a result of information technologies. On-call work is characterized by short advance notice of schedules, large fluctuations in work hours and little or no input by workers into the timing of work. In the retail sector, the growth of unpredictable schedules is due in part to the development of sophisticated software used to track the flow of customers, allowing managers to assign just enough employees to handle the anticipated demand. (…)

72. New information and communication technologies increasingly permit employees to work at any time and from anywhere. Yet work-related telephone calls and email contacts outside of regular business hours can have negative effects on workers’ mental health and work–life balance. (…)

29. (…) Limits on working hours are an important component of workplace safety, as excessive working hours are associated with greater risk of accidents at work. The health literature has long recognized that working longer than 48 or 50 hours a week on a sustained basis can be detrimental to an individual’s health. Limits on working hours are also needed to allow workers to balance work and personal responsibilities. (…)


Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2]

Article 24: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

ILO, Hours of Work Convention[3]

Article 2: The working hours of persons employed in any public or private industrial undertaking or in any branch thereof, other than an undertaking in which only members of the same family are employed, shall not exceed eight in the day and forty-eight in the week, with the exceptions hereinafter provided for (…)

ILO, Part-Time Work Convention[4]

Article 4

Measures shall be taken to ensure that part-time workers receive the same protection as that accorded to comparable full-time workers in respect of:

(a) the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively and the right to act as workers’ representatives;

(b) occupational safety and health;

(c) discrimination in employment and occupation.

Article 5

Measures appropriate to national law and practice shall be taken to ensure that part-time workers do not, solely because they work part time, receive a basic wage which, calculated proportionately on an hourly, performance-related, or piece-rate basis, is lower than the basic wage of comparable full-time workers, calculated according to the same method.

Article 6

Statutory social security schemes which are based on occupational activity shall be adapted so that part-time workers enjoy conditions equivalent to those of comparable full-time workers; these conditions may be determined in proportion to hours of work, contributions or earnings, or through other methods consistent with national law and practice.

ILO, Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization[5]

I. (…) the four equally important strategic objectives of the ILO, through which the Decent Work Agenda is expressed (…):

(ii) developing and enhancing measures of social protection – social security and labour protection – which are sustainable and adapted to national circumstances, including: (…)

  • policies in regard to wages and earnings, hours and other conditions of work, designed to ensure a just share of the fruits of progress to all and a minimum living wage to all employed and in need of such protection

ILO, Survey Concerning Working-Time Instruments[6]

3. The number of hours worked, the length and number of rest periods and how they are organized in a day, week, month or year, have important consequences for both workers and employers. The regulation of working time and rest periods also plays an important role in upholding the principle, enshrined in the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 and in the Declaration of Philadelphia of 1944, that labour is not a commodity and should not be regarded merely as an article of commerce. (…) The ILO has adopted a number of instruments covering specific aspects of working time and particularly hours of work, weekly rest, paid annual leave, night work and part-time work. Moreover, a number of sectoral ILO instruments contains provisions on working time.

7. The regulation of working time is all the more important given the transformations currently taking place in the world of work. Some of these changes have been facilitated by developments and improvements in technology and communications which are disrupting, and even contributing to the elimination of, many of the traditional time and space dimensions in work. Work today is increasingly performed at any time and almost anywhere, which has consequences for the organization of work and production with the development, among others, of a “24/7” society. While in today’s world of work the agricultural and manufacturing sectors continue to be very important, by 2013 nearly half of all employment around the world was located in the burgeoning services sector. In contrast to other sectors, the nature of the services sector often means it must respond to fluctuating demands and to time periods that are both shorter and often less predictable. However, in a world of instant communications and sophisticated technology, even the manufacturing industry is not immune from the pressures of being able to respond “on demand” to changing consumer trends (for example, in fashion, but also in many other commodities) through “in time” production. This, in turn, imposes demands for organizational flexibility which may require workers to work in non-traditional ways (or in non-standard employment) which are characterized, among other aspects, by variability of time (across a day, week, and/or a longer period). These are all part of the pressures arising out of globalization. There is no doubt that market competition has intensified and created pressure for enterprises to become efficient and reduce costs, and technologies have allowed the enormous increase in the transnational provision of global services. While this has positive effects in terms of increased labour market participation and productivity, it may also have negative effects on workers’ health and well-being, as the boundaries between work and private life tend to become blurred. This has always been a feature of work for women, who have traditionally carried out much of their unpaid work from home (such as taking in laundry, and child-minding); with new technologies the phenomenon of “home-working” has increased exponentially.

[working hours]

178. First, the Committee observes that, with regard to the variable distribution of normal hours of work, the daily limit of nine and ten hours per day allowed by Conventions Nos 1 and 30, respectively, are not given effect in a number of countries. Moreover, the Committee observes that the averaging of hours of work over periods longer than a week has become a frequent practice in many countries, and that the reference period used to calculate hours of work may be as long as one year. In this regard, the Committee recognizes that flexible modern working-time arrangements, such as the averaging of hours of work, may call into question the relevance of certain restrictions imposed by the Conventions on the maximum duration of daily and weekly hours of work. However, the Committee wishes to emphasize the importance of reasonable limits and protective safeguards in devising such flexible arrangements so as to ensure that modern working time arrangements are not prejudicial to the health of workers or to the necessary work– life balance (…)

179. Second, the Committee observes that the circumstances justifying recourse to exceptions to the normal statutory hours of work are not always clearly defined, or go beyond those recognized in the Conventions. In this respect, the Committee wishes to emphasize the fundamental importance of limiting recourse to overtime to clear and well-defined circumstances.

[weekly resting time]

202. The principle of uniformity enshrined in Article 2(2) of Convention No. 14 and 6(2) of Convention No. 106 refers to the collective character of weekly rest with a view to ensuring, wherever possible, that it is taken at the same time by all workers on the day established by tradition or custom. The social purpose of this principle is to enable workers to take part in community life and in the special forms of recreation available on certain days.


266. (…) certain provisions of international labour Conventions seek occasionally to protect workers against what might initially appear to be their own “preferences”, for instance in case they are tempted (for reasons of securing an additional financial gain) to renounce elementary protection rights, especially in terms of hours of work, weekly rest and annual holidays. Accordingly, the Committee has consistently called for workers who are deprived of their weekly rest to be granted compensatory rest in all cases, irrespective of any monetary compensation. [principle of weekly rest]

[annual leave]

Article 12 of Convention No. 132 provides that ‘Agreements to relinquish the right to the minimum annual holiday with pay prescribed in Article 3, paragraph 3, of this Convention or to forgo such a holiday, for compensation or otherwise, shall, as appropriate to national conditions, be null and void or be prohibited.’

374. Emphasizing the importance of workers effectively benefiting from their right to a period of relaxation and leisure every year, the Committee encourages all governments to take the necessary measures to ensure that paid annual leave rights are effectively enjoyed and that monetary compensation is offered in lieu of annual leave only in the case of any unused leave upon termination of employment.

[part-time work]

550. (…) A number of factors have contributed to the development of part-time work over the years. It allows employers greater flexibility in planning work, aligning schedules with peaks in demand and retaining workers who cannot commit to full-time work. For the workers, part-time work can help to reconcile family, educational or other obligations, while providing an income, and may at some point lead to full-time employment. Governments have also developed policies to encourage part-time work, particularly for certain groups in the labour market, such as women, young people, the long-term unemployed, and also to encourage older workers to remain in employment. Policies to promote part-time work have also been used to assist workers with family responsibilities.

551. Research suggests that part-time work is used by employers for three different reasons: as a recruitment and retention strategy based on workers’ preferences; to provide optimal staffing and operational flexibility adapted to the demand for labour across the day, week or season; and to create a secondary, less remunerated and more precarious pool of workers, through the generation of low-paid, low-skilled jobs, sometimes by circumventing regulations or collective agreements that protect the wages and other working conditions of full-time workers. Part-time work may also be used by lawmakers as an instrument of employment policy in the fight against unemployment.

Ethical Trading Initiative, The Base Code[1]

6. Working hours are not excessive

6.1 Working hours must comply with national laws, collective agreements, and the provisions of 6.2 to 6.6 below, whichever affords the greater protection for workers. Sub-clauses 6.2 to 6.6 are based on international labour standards.

6.2 Working hours, excluding overtime, shall be defined by contract, and shall not exceed 48 hours per week.*

6.3 All overtime shall be voluntary. Overtime shall be used responsibly, taking into account all the following: the extent, frequency and hours worked by individual workers and the workforce as a whole. It shall not be used to replace regular employment. Overtime shall always be compensated at a premium rate, which is recommended to be not less than 125% of the regular rate of pay.

6.4 The total hours worked in any 7 day period shall not exceed 60 hours, except where covered by clause 6.5 below.

6.5 Working hours may exceed 60 hours in any 7 day period only in exceptional circumstances where all of the following are met:

  • this is allowed by national law;
  • this is allowed by a collective agreement freely negotiated with a workers’ organisation representing a significant portion of the workforce;
  • appropriate safeguards are taken to protect the workers’ health and safety; and
  • the employer can demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply such as unexpected production peaks, accidents or emergencies.

6.6 Workers shall be provided with at least one day off in every 7 day period or, where allowed by national law, 2 days off in every 14 day period.

* International standards recommend the progressive reduction of normal hours of work, when appropriate, to 40 hours per week, without any reduction in workers’ wages as hours are reduced.

Ethical Trading Initiative, Working Hours Clause – Interpretation[2]


  • The primary aim of clause 6 of the Base Code is to ensure that workers do not work excessive hours; that workers have at least one day off per week; and that any overtime is voluntary and is properly compensated.
  • The underlying principle behind this part of the Base Code is the preservation of workers’ health and workplace safety. (…)
  • The ETI Base Code clause on Working Hours must be considered in conjunction with all other aspects of the Base Code, including those related to wages and freedom of association.
  • The ETI Base Code applies to all categories of workers, including those who may not be covered by national labour law provisions (for example, agricultural workers).

Exceptional circumstances

Finally, the employer must be able to demonstrate that exceptional circumstances apply. Exceptional circumstances refer to unforeseen events, including but not limited to: (…)

o unexpected production peaks: this typically relates to last minute changes to orders, or increases beyond the control of the supplier but does not include foreseeable seasonal production peaks.

How can the company ensure that overtime is voluntary?

When an employer requires workers to work overtime, the employer should clearly communicate to workers that they are free to refuse and that there will be no negative repercussions if they do. To avoid coercion, the employer should ensure that:

  • if transportation is provided, it is available at the end of the normal work day or shift so that workers who choose not to perform overtime can leave the facility;
  • the facility doors or gates are unlocked to allow workers to leave freely at the end of their work day;
  • if daily production targets are used, they are achievable within the standard working hours so employees do not feel pressured to work overtime in order to meet them;
  • overtime requests are not always directed at the same workers;
  • the company’s internal policies clearly state that workers are free to refuse overtime;
  • workers are given sufficient notice of overtime work so alternative arrangements can be made if workers are not able to perform the work; and
  • workers’ agreement to perform overtime work is documented.

Are there limits on daily working?

The ETI Base Code does not provide specific regulation on the number of hours per day that can be worked. Nevertheless employers should seek to avoid long working days as these may put a worker’s health at risk. There is a duty in the Base Code and national law to provide a safe system of work, which must prevent excessively long work shifts or continuous working. This is because of the health and safety risks that arise from excessive working time. In many countries national law will contain provisions related to either maximum daily working hours, minimum daily rest hours and rest days. It should be remembered that ILO Convention No 1 (1919) called for the adoption of an 8-hour maximum day.

Nike, Sustainability Report 2012[3]

Excessive Overtime

We continue to evaluate why excessive overtime is a persistent issue in contract factories. During FY11, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the excessive overtime incidents identified and analyzed through audits of 128 factories were attributable to factors within Nike’s control, primarily forecasting or capacity planning issues, shortened production timelines and seasonal spikes. However, it is unclear how often these factors are directly linked to one of our brands, as some factories also produce products for many other brands. In factories for which multiple brands place orders, it is very difficult to isolate the root cause of production-capacity planning bottlenecks. As a result, we will begin to explore ways to create internal systems that allow us to isolate Nike-caused capacity spikes and imbalances that can contribute to a factory’s inability to effectively manage production planning. In addition, we will begin the process of creating new tools and reporting mechanisms for apparel factories to proactively communicate with Nike when their production team is approaching overtime limits that would be in violation of our standards. We have instituted these reporting requirements in NIKE Brand footwear factories already, and have seen marked improvement in the management of excessive overtime as a result.

We recognize that excessive overtime is a serious issue – in terms of both hours worked and days on the job without a break. We are focusing on these areas through continued analysis of root causes, which has led us to identify and address key business processes upstream from the factory. Variability is one of those root causes. Some of the key variables we have assessed include: seasonality in styles, the lack of predictability in consumer or product demand, and the impact of global economic challenges. We are working to develop our abilities to successfully respond to these real variables without negatively impacting factories or workers.

We are addressing these issues throughout our product-creation process, including via improved forecasting alignment, which involves coordination across geographies, categories and product engines to get the right information and decisions made at the right time. We’re also optimizing our sourcing base in footwear and apparel to handle fluctuations in capacity and to adopt and implement the technologies needed to respond to the demand for emerging styles and products.

Outside of those items influenced by Nike, in some places overtime is expected by both workers and factories, tied to broken models of compensation in which the only way workers can earn more is by working more hours. We recognize that excessive overtime is not sustainable from a worker or business point of view, as the costs are high for both. We are working with factories to build an understanding of these costs in terms of workers’ health and safety, productivity and quality of life, and as a contributing factor to labor turnover. We will continue to track our impact on excessive overtime at factories and believe that the inclusion of excessive overtime in our Sourcing & Manufacturing Sustainability Index will elevate the issue and help us to recognize where and when these issues arise and to factor this aspect of factory performance into our sourcing decisions.

Nike, Sustainability Report 2018[4]

Sustainable Sourcing

Excessive Overtime (EOT) is a cross-sector issue which can have an impact on the health and quality of life of workers. It also can result in errors and rework, often making the additional hours unproductive. One of the requirements of the NIKE Code Leadership Standards is to eliminate excessive working hours and ensure that workers at our supplier factories do not work more than 60 hours a week, and have at least one full day off in every seven.

As we work toward our target of 100 percent of factories being bronze-rated, increased monitoring has shown that the facilities where EOT is most likely to occur tend to be factories that are multi-brand, where NIKE represents a small percent of their overall production.

EOT is a persistent challenge across industries in many of the countries where our suppliers operate. The biggest problems are underdeveloped management systems and a failure to enforce local laws on working hours.

While the number of factories with incidents of EOT remains steady, this doesn’t mean that the same factories are always responsible. In fact, a low rate of repeat findings is what makes it so challenging to predict and anticipate where EOT will occur. For example, of all factories with an EOT finding at the end of FY17, only three were repeat offenders. In fact, 11 of the 23 factories with EOT incidents during FY17 resolved the issues and went on to return a bronze rating by the end of the year. (…)

Apple, Supplier Responsibility Report[5]

Working Hours Falsification

Our Working Hours policy is based on International Labour Organization and Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) standards that limit working hours to no more than 60 hours a week. Also, suppliers can offer overtime only on a voluntary basis and factories must give employees one full day of rest for every six days worked.

We launched a Working Hours Program in 2011 to better manage working hours across our vast supply base. In 2012, the weekly working hours of more than 1 million supplier employees were monitored. Since then, coverage of employees monitored in the program has expanded year over year and, in 2017, the working hours of 1.3 million people were tracked on a weekly basis.

If falsification of employee working hours is discovered, the violation is escalated to the supplier CEO and the supplier is placed on immediate probation. The supplier’s ethics policy and management systems are then thoroughly reviewed to identify the root causes and systemically correct them. The supplier is required to undergo regular audits to ensure the reviewed policy is implemented to prevent future violations. In addition, the supplier must revise all records to reflect an accurate accounting of hours worked by their employees. In 2017, we uncovered 38 cases of falsification of working hours data. In all cases, suppliers were placed on immediate probation. Our suppliers’ compliance for overall working hours for the year was 94 percent.

H&M Group, Sustainability Report[6]

Improving Purchasing Practices

In 2016, we had the internal launch of our updated strategy on purchasing practices. This helps ensure we consistently engage with our business partners in a fair and transparent way. We recognize that our buying practices affect the ability of our suppliers to provide decent pay and conditions for their workers. This is why we constantly look for ways to improve purchasing practices and prioritise our actions according to feedback from suppliers and other stakeholders.

Highlights of our work include:

  • We are working to make our measurement of capacity as accurate as possible. This helps improve planning and order placement processes and helps our suppliers use their capacity better. By ensuring capacity is not overbooked, we reduce the risk of excessive overtime and strengthen our long-term partnerships and commitments with specific suppliers. (…)

Fair Labor Association, Annual Report[7]

Hours of Work

(…) in 2016, FLA assessors found more than three-quarters of all facilities in need of improvement regarding excessive hours of work. To be in full compliance with the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct, facilities must base their production planning on a regular workweek of no more than 48 hours, and total hours per employee must not exceed 60 per week, or legal limits, whichever is lower, with special hours-of-work considerations for young, elderly, or pregnant workers, where required by law. In addition, the FLA code requires all overtime work to be voluntary, although in half of all facilities visited in 2016, assessors found that overtime work was mandatory. More than a third of all facilities also failed to provide one rest day in every seven to their workers, or to provide annual leave in accordance with local law.

Vietnam: 18 assessments, 42,139 workers

Among the 18 factories visited by the FLA in Vietnam, assessors recorded that 13 failed to provide workers with one day of rest in every seven, and half of all facilities required workers to work overtime. (…)

Indonesia: 8 assessments, 22,245 workers

Among the more common widespread findings in Indonesia, FLA assessors found that seven of eight factories failed to compensate workers correctly for their overtime. In some cases, factories calculated overtime using an outdated minimum wage as base pay; in other cases, factories did not provide the legally required 200 percent premium wage rate for overtime conducted on a scheduled rest day. Furthermore, working through a rest day without a compensatory day off within any seven-day period violates FLA hours-of-work standards, which assessors found in two of the factories with overtime pay issues. (…)

Barrientos, Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Production Networks[8]

Social upgrading is the process of improvement in the rights and entitlements of workers as social actors, which enhances the quality of their employment (…)

Social upgrading can be subdivided into two components: measurable standards and enabling rights. Measurable standards are those aspects of worker well-being that are more easily observable and quantifiable, including type of employment (regular or irregular), wage level, social protection and working hours. They can also include data on sex and unionization, such as the percentage of female supervisors or the percentage of union members in the workforce.

However, measurable standards are often the outcome of complex bargaining processes, framed by the enabling rights of workers. These are less easily quantified, such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, non-discrimination, voice and empowerment. Lack of access to enabling rights undermines the ability of workers – or specific groups of workers, such as women or migrants – to negotiate improvements in their working conditions that can enhance their well-being.

Background (Cambodia)

Peng et al, Labour and Employment Law[9]

Normal working hours may not exceed eight hours a day or 48 hours in a week. “Night work” under the Cambodian Labour law represents a period of at least eleven consecutive hours that includes the interval between 2200 and 0500 hour. Besides continuous work that is performed by rotating teams who sometimes work during the day and sometimes at night, the work at the enterprise can always include a portion of night work.

Overtime may not exceed 2 hours a day and employers are required to get permission from the Ministry in charge of labour.  The limit is at 200 hours in a year. Under special circumstances, this limit may be increased to 300 hours of overtime per year. Businesses in the textiles, garments, sportswear, and fishery production fields automatically operate on this increased basis. Employees who work eight consecutive hours are entitled to 1 hour lunch break according a general practice of private sector employee in Cambodia and it is normally stated in an internal regulation of each enterprise of establishment. The Labour Law prohibits employers from using the same worker for more than six days per week and grant employees to have weekly time off for a minimum of twenty-four consecutive hours.

Asia Floor Wage Alliance et al, Precarious Work in the H&M Global Supply Chain[10]

Regulations governing overtime require that it be limited to exceptional or urgent work and limited to twelve hours per week—or approximately two hours per day. Regulations also stipulate that overtime should be voluntary and employers should not penalize workers who refuse overtime work. Required overtime rates differ based upon whether overtime is performed during the week, a weekly day off (typically Sunday) or on a public holiday… Almost all garment workers in Cambodia exceed the 48-hour work-week, often without taking paid evening breaks during overtime shifts … 87% of garment workers surveyed engaged in overtime work in order to meet their basic needs.

Instruments (Cambodia)

Labour Law[11]

Article 137

In all establishments of any nature, whether they provide vocational training, or they are of a charitable nature or liberal profession, the number of hours worked by workers of either sex cannot exceed 8 hours per day, or 48 hours per week.

Article 139

If workers are required to work overtime for exceptional and urgent jobs, the overtime hours shall be paid at a rate of fifty percent higher than normal hours. If the overtime hours are worked at night or during weekly time off, the rate of increase shall be one hundred percent.

Article 139 New

In case of special urgency which requires workers to work overtime other than the usual working hours, the overtime hours shall be paid at an increased rate of 50% (fifty percent). Working overtime at night between 22:00h to 5:00h or weekly time off, shall be additionally paid at an increased rate of 100% (one hundred percent).

Article 139 (as amended)

Night work performed as overtime is paid at 200% of the rate for normal working hours that are not worked at night (a 100% increase in addition to the basic wage).

Article 140

The Ministry in Charge of Labor can issue a Prakas (ministerial order) authorizing an extension of the daily hours in order to make up for hours lost following mass interruptions in the work or a general slowdown from either accidental causes or acts of God, notably bad weather or because of holidays, local festivals, or other local events, in the following cases:

a)  Making up for lost hours will not be authorized for more than 30 days per year and will be implemented within fifteen days after the return to work. For agricultural enterprises this period is extended to one month.

b) The extension of the daily working hours cannot exceed one hour.

c)  Hours of work cannot exceed ten hours per day.

Article 144

For the purposes of this law, the term “night” represents a period of at least eleven consecutive hours that includes the interval between 2200 and 0500 hour.

Article 144 (as amended)

Night work performed during normal working hours (non-overtime hours) is paid at 130% of the rate for normal working hours that are not worked at night.

Article 147

Weekly time off shall last for a minimum of 24 consecutive hours. All workers shall be given in principle a day off on Sunday.

Article 141

The employer may determine the allocation of working hours within the forty-eight hour working week in order to allow for a break on Saturday afternoon or any other equivalent approach, on the condition that the extra hours do not exceed one hour per day of the regular schedule. However, the employer must not extend the normal working day beyond 9 hours in order to do this.

Article 162

In case the public holiday falls on Sunday, workers will have the following day off.

Prakas on Overtime Work besides Regular Working Hours[12]

Article 4

Overtime work must be conducted based on volunteer principles.  Owners of enterprises shall not force or take any disciplinary action against workers who do not voluntarily accept overtime work.

Prakas on the Allocation of Working Hours besides the Normal Week[13]

Article 2

The owners of establishments, who wish to allocate working time, need set as follows: (1) the allocation of working hours should not exceed 48 hours per week in 12 consecutive weeks; (2) the working hours should not exceed 10 hours; and (3) the extend of working hours should not exceed one hour per day. 

Prakas on Derogation of Prohibition of Children from Performing Night Work[14]

Article 1

Children aged from 16 to less than 18 years may be employed to perform night works in iron and steel factories, glass factories, paper factories, sugar factories, and gold ore refineries that must continuously operate day and night.  The only one purpose of employing children to perform the night works is to apprentice or provide them with professional training.

Article 2

In all cases, the working hours for young workers should not more be more than 8 hours per day.  The young workers must be given at least 13 consecutive hours off between shifts.

Article 3

Employers who want to employ children to perform the night works shall ask for a prior approval from the Labour Inspector.  After receiving the request, the Labour Inspector shall make decisions by each case based on reasons for employing.

Prakas on Light Work Permitted for Children Aged from 12 to 15[15]

Article 4

The daily working duration shall not exceed 4 hours for children having school days and not exceed 7 hours for school-free days.

The total actual working duration shall not exceed 12 hours per week for school days and not exceed 35 hours per week for school-free week. (…)

Article 5

Children aged from 12 to 15 shall not be allowed to work from 20:00 to 06:00 am.

Article 6

Children aged from 12 to 15 are entitled to receive a break of at least 14 consecutive hours within a period of 24 hours.

Arbitration Council, Award No. 10/04 – Eternity Apparel[16]

Additionally, Article 01 of Prakas 80 SALVY dated 10 March 1999 stipulates, “The owner or director of an enterprise/establishment covered by the Labour Law may seek MoSALVY’s permission to extend the working hours beyond the regular working hours.” In cases that an enterprise/establishment requests overtime work, the Labour Inspectorate allows it, saying, “in order to ensure workers’ health, the Labour Inspectorate allows only two hours of overtime work per day.”

Therefore, although the Labor Law fails to explicitly limit the overtime hours in case of an irregular urgent matter, the Arbitration Council finds that the company may not ask its employees to work overtime for the number of hours longer than ten hours per day [including the regular working hours].

Furthermore, Article 04 of Prakas 017 SALVY dated 18 July 2000 states, “workers who volunteer to work overtime as is requested by the employer, are entitled to food allowances of 1,000 riels per day or otherwise to a free meal. Accordingly, for their voluntary and lawful overtime work, workers are entitled to 1,000 riels per day in addition to their wages for the duration of overtime work set forth in Article 139 of the Labor Law.

IFC, Tackling Childcare[17]

Flexible time and work location: Standard working hours can create difficulties for employees in fulfilling their childcare duties, such as picking up children from school on time. Most of the employees at Hagar Catering work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. so they have enough time to attend to children’s needs after work. Sathapana Bank provides flexible working time to employees to take care of their children. A female employee of ACLEDA Bank was living far from the branch and had a long commute. She had no one to care for her child and requested to move to another branch; the bank agreed to her request.

Breastfeeding room and nursing breaks: As stated in Article 185 of the Labor Law, female workers who are nursing their child should be given breaks during working hours. It should be a separate break and not deducted from their normal break time. Companies are meant to provide a nursing room on their premises, especially those with more than 100 female workers who are legally mandated to provide such a facility… Every female worker who breastfeeds her children must be given a one-hour break during the working hours for one year. This is applicable to all workers regardless of the size of the company. The breaks must be longer than the normal breaks provided for in the Labor Law, and should be mutually decided between the employer and women workers. If there is no agreement, the breaks shall be taken at the midpoint of the respective work shift

Collective Bargaining Agreement [re Airport Workers][18]

The CBA between airport employees union and Cambodia Airport Management Services provided that “the weekly working duration varies from 40 hours to 48 hours.  The daily shift per day is a combination of four consecutive working hours per day and up to 10 consecutive working hours per day but not more than 10 hours per day. 

Human Rights Watch, Work Faster or Get Out[19]

Key Concerns for Women Workers

Factory managers also often failed to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers such as more frequent bathroom breaks or lighter work without loss of pay.  Many found it difficult to work long hours, including overtime, without adequate breaks to rest or use washrooms.  Many interviewees said workers often resigned from factories as their pregnancy progressed because managers harassed them for being “slow” and “unproductive.”

H&M Case Study

Factory 1, a direct supplier to H&M, subcontracts work to many smaller factories. Team leaders in factory 1 allegedly told workers that they should work Sundays, their day off, at an unauthorized subcontractor to help meet production targets and supplement their incomes because factory 1 was not going to provide them with any opportunities for overtime work. In their Sunday and public holiday work at the unauthorized subcontractor, they worked on H&M garments but without overtime pay. By outsourcing the work to a subcontractor, factory 1 was able to bypass labor law provisions governing overtime wages and a compensatory day off for night shifts or Sunday work. 

Human Rights Watch also spoke to five workers from a subcontractor factory supplying factory 1. Workers knew their factory was “sharing business” and was producing for H&M because the managers had discussed the brand name and designs with them. When they had rush orders, the workers report that they were not permitted to refuse excessive overtime, including on Sundays and public holidays, and were not paid overtime wage rates. 

Keeton-Olsen, The Workers Organizing for a Better Future in Cambodia[20]

When Srun Sokthy started at Chu Hsing Garment Co. Ltd in 2007, Sokthy’s basic wage was US$35 per month. Through union negotiations and her decades of work, she now earns US$210 per month base pay, with another US$100 in overtime – a combined total that exceeds the national minimum wage for garment workers of US$182 per month.

CCADWU and other local unions represented in the factory banded together to gain further benefits: a US$10 per month stipend for transportation, early leave for pregnant workers, and establishment of a US$20,000 accident and emergency fund that’s paid for by the company. “We got even better benefits than what’s provided by the law. It’s all through the negotiations with the union,” Sokthy says.

Between her job as a garment worker and caring for two young sons, Sokthy’s only respite is her hour-long lunch break, spent in a canteen or at her family’s dorm a few minutes’ walk from the factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. However, she says her life has improved since she joined the independent trade union, CCADWU.

Woodbury, Bricked In[21]

Another component to the occupational environment of brick kiln workers relates to the logistical and social aspects of their work. As all interviewed brick kiln workers are paid according to the amount produced, otherwise known as piece work, the workers experience a high pressure to produce. They work seven days of the week, on average eight hours a day. Occasionally, workers will skip lunch breaks to work longer hours. This pressure to produce is also fueled by the desire to pay off loans owed to the employer. Irregular working schedules were commonplace as the demand for work ebbed and flowed based on different factors. For example, the availability of work relied on the proper functioning of the vacuum extruder brick machines to mold the bricks and trucks for delivering the finished bricks. When either of these items needed repair, work was halted.


  1. Why do you think excessive working time remains a problem in global supply chains after 30 years of CSR?
  2. What have international brands do to reduce working hours in supplier factories?
  3. Can international brands ever cause excessive working hours in supplier fcatories? How?
  4. What amount of overtime can employer require under the law of Cambodia?
  5. Why is there a prohibition of night work from 22:00 to 05:00 for young workers from 15 to 18 years?
  6. What is the work arrangement for working mothers who has just returned from maternity leave?

Further Readings

[1] Ethical Trading Initiative, The ETI Base Code (2014) www.ethicaltrade.org/sites/default/files/shared_resources/eti_base_code_english.pdf.

[2] Ethical Trading Initiative, Working Hours Clause – Interpretation (2014) www.ethicaltrade.org/sites/default/files/shared_resources/eti_base_code_clause_6_interpretation_english_0.pdf

[3] Nike, FY10/11 Sustainable Business Performance Summary (2012) www.unglobalcompact.org/system/attachments/15435/original/NIKE_SUSTAINABLE_BUSINESS_REPORT_FY10-11_FINAL.pdf?1337190353.

[4] Nike, FY1617 Sustainable Business Report (2018) https://sustainability-nike.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/18175102/NIKE-FY1617-Sustainable-Business-Report_FINAL.pdf.

[5] Apple, Supplier Responsibility, Progress Report (2018) www.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2018_Progress_Report.pdf

[6] H&M Group, Sustainability Report (2017)


[7] Fair Labor Association, Annual Report (2017) www.fairlabor.org/sites/default/files/documents/reports/2017_fla_apr.pdf.

[8] Stephanie Barrientos et al. ‘Economic and Social Upgrading in Global Production Networks’, International Labour Review (2011) www.researchgate.net/publication/228278108_Economic_and_Social_Upgrading_in_Global_Production_Networks_A_New_Paradigm_for_a_Changing_World.

[9] Hor Peng et al (eds.), Introduction to Cambodian Law, Cambodian Labour and Employment Law, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (2012), 285-312 http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_31083-1522-1-30.pdf?120720080906.

[10] Asia Floor Wage Alliance et al, Precarious Work in the H&M Global Supply Chain, 51 (2016) Workers’ Voices from the Global Supply Chain https://www.academia.edu/29903731/Precarious_Work_in_the_H_and_M_Global_Value_Chain.

[11] Cambodia, Labour Law (1997), https://sogi.sithi.org/temp.php?url=media_view2.php&mid=121#:~:text=Cambodian%20Labour%20Law&text=This%20Law%27s%20purpose%20is%20to,in%20terms%20of%20job%20opportunity.

[12] Cambodia, Prakas on Overtime Work besides Regular Working Hours, No. 80/99 (1999) https://www.arbitrationcouncil.org/download/prakas-80-99-on-overtime-work-besides-regular-working-hours/#.

[13] Cambodia, Prakas on the Allocation of Working Hours besides the Normal Week with the Average of 12 Weeks, No. 143/002 (2002) https://www.arbitrationcouncil.org/download/prakas-143-02-on-the-allocation-of-working-hours-besides-the-normal-week-with-the-average-of-12-weeks/#.

[14] Cambodia, Prakas on Derogation of Prohibition of Children from Performing Night Work, No. 144/02 (2002) https://www.arbitrationcouncil.org/download/prakas-144-02-on-derogation-of-prohibition-of-children-from-performing-night-work/#.  

[15] Cambodia, Prakas on Category of Occupation and Light Work Permitted for Children Aged from 12 to 15, No. 002/08 (2008) https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/ELECTRONIC/93403/109145/F839062124/KHM93403%20Eng.pdf.

[16] Arbitration Council, Arbitral Award 10/04 – Eternity Apparel (2004) https://www.arbitrationcouncil.org/arbitral-decision/arbitral-award/#.

[17] International Finance Corporation (IFC) et al., Tackling Childcare: Employer-Supported Childcare in Cambodia, (2020) https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/9b7cf6e6-eab0-40a4-bfa2-2c55fdcaac3b/Tackling+Childcare-Cambodia.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=neA2eTN.

[18] Prake, Collective Bargaining Agreement between International Airport Independence Employees Union Siem Reap Airport and Cambodia Airport Management Services (2011) https://prake.org/labour-law/collective-agreements-database/collective-bargaining-agreement-between-international-airport-independence-employees-union-siem-reap-airport-cambodia-tourism-industry-worker-trade-union-and-cambodia-airport-management-services.

[19] Human Rights Watch, “Work Faster or Get Out”: Labour Rights Abuses in Cambodia’s Garment Industry (2015) https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/cambodia0315_ForUpload.pdf.

[20] Danielle Keeton-Olsen, ‘The Workers Organizing for a Better Future in Cambodia’, Equal Times (7 July 2020) https://www.equaltimes.org/the-workers-organising-for-a?lang=en#.XwRnG0FoTIU.

[21] Polly Woodbury, Bricked In: Occupational Health and Safety Concerns of Cambodian Brick Kiln Workers (2020) https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/45733/Woodbury_washington_0250O_21915.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[1] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Labour Protection in a Transforming World of Work (2015) https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_358295.pdf.

[2] Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) www.ohchr.org/en/udhr/pages/searchbylang.aspx.

[3] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Hours of Work (Industry) Convention (No. 1) – Convention Limiting the Hours of Work in Industrial Undertakings to Eight in the Day and Forty-eight in the Week (1919) www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C001.

[4] International Labour Organisation (ILO), Part-Time Work Convention (No. 175) (1994) www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C175.

[5] International Labour Organisation (ILO), ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2008) www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—cabinet/documents/genericdocument/wcms_371208.pdf.

[6] International Labour Organisation (ILO), General Survey Concerning Working-Time Instruments – Ensuring Decent Working Time for the Future (2018) www.ilo.org/ilc/ILCSessions/107/reports/reports-to-the-conference/WCMS_618485/lang–en/index.htm.


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