Many provisions of the Cambodian Labor Law seem to have been written to protect semi-skilled and unskilled workers, and rightly so. Garment factory workers do tough work for low wages, so the Law aims to protect them from overwork and other abuse from their employers.

But for professionals , the rules on working hours and overtime are often more restrictive than industry norms. Whereas New York and Hong Kong bankers could be pulling 100+ hour weeks, their Cambodian counterparts are supposed to work no more than 48 hours a week or 8 hours a day. Any time over that amount must be paid at 150% of normal wages, or 200% if done between 10pm and 5am or on a day-off. Furthermore, the employee can’t be forced to work overtime, and overtime is limited to two-hour shifts.

Now suppose you’re like many businesses, working a regular 9am – 6 pm, Monday –Friday schedule. That’s only 40 hours a week, but unless you’re going into overtime, those 8 extra hours can only be taken on Saturday, as everyone’s already working 8 hours per day. This can put a real cramp on a business’s operations, or end up being quite expensive.

For example, your business has a project deadline the next day, and by close of business it’s still not done. The person responsible for the project, who has been working all day on it, refuses to stay any later, claiming he has a wedding to go to. You manage to get his assistant to stay, but only after you sweeten the deal with the promise of 150% of his normal salary. Still, after only two hours he’s REQUIRED to leave, no way to keep him any longer and still be in compliance with the law.

What to do?

There was a regulation passed way back in 1998, titled plainly enough “Prakas on The Working Hours Different From the Regular One”, which I think offers a practical solution. It allows employers to set a 12-week work schedule, so long as the average hours worked doesn’t exceed 48 hours a week, and no particular day exceeds 10 hours.

If you’re on the standard 9-6 M-F schedule, you have the flexibility of having employees stay until 8pm, without their ability to veto and without paying overtime. It might add a bit more complexity to your record keeping, but if you find yourself needing the extra flexibility, this is a good way to go about it.