Guangdong labour authorities have warned employers not to force their staff to work long hours, Shenzhen News Net reported yesterday. The warning comes as factory owners try to make up for production lost during the Sars outbreak. The notice was issued by the provincial Department of Labour and Social Security last week. It said employers must get workers' agreement before making them work outside office hours. Employees could work no more than three hours' overtime a day even if they agreed, the report said. Monthly overtime was capped at 36 hours. The report said if workers had to work during their days off or public holidays, they should receive extra payment as compensation. Employers who breach the rules face fines. They would have to pay workers up to 100 yuan (HK$94) an hour for the extra work, the report said. The notice asked each enterprise to keep a log book of staff working hours to ensure their rights are being protected. It also urged government departments to strengthen law enforcement and take workers' complaints seriously, the report said. It said those who hire under-aged workers would be severely punished. Monina Wong Ching-man, a labour rights researcher for Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, said factories in Guangdong had difficulty hiring migrant workers during the Sars outbreak. 'Many migrant workers went back home or were not allowed to come to Guangdong. Many employers worried they might not be able to meet their order deadlines,' she said. Ms Wong said those factories now might have to ask workers to take extra shifts to meet deadlines. 'During the peak season, the factories owners usually have to ask workers to work much longer than legally allowed. They will ask local authorities to relax the regulations to help them,' she said.