Last Updated on 2024-03-15

An Explanation of VET at Amazon: Voluntary Extra Time

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Jesse Gauthier

T1 Associate with two years of experience working in the Packer, Problem Solver, and Scanner roles

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Shane Lynch

T1 Asssociate with experience working both a Delivery Station and Sortation Center working in the XL Associate, Receive Dock, Waterspider, Picker, Problem Solver, and Packer roles.

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Vaughn Winslow

One year of experience working in an Amazon XL warehouse

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Davis Porter

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

The “extra time” schedule at Amazon allows warehouse employees the opportunity to increase income by working additional hours beyond their regular shifts. The platform tracks the workday extensions for each individual and compensates them accordingly.

Remuneration is not the same for everyone, though. Your wages depend on whether you're clocking in mandatory overtime shifts (MET) or Voluntary Extra Time (VET)

Amazon VET and MET have varying availability schedules, applications, eligibility criteria, and terms of engagement. You wouldn’t want to mix up the two, as that could affect your work experience, earning potential, performance record, and growth prospects at Amazon. 

Here, we’ll clarify what Amazon's voluntary extra time entails, how it works, the type of warehouse jobs it targets, when you may expect to get it, plus its corresponding pay rates. You can also refer to our alternative Amazon MET guide to contrast the two.

What is VET at Amazon?

Voluntary Extra Time (VET) is an optional system at Amazon that gives employees the chance to work more hours than their scheduled shifts. With this workplace arrangement, Amazon gets to manage fluctuations in demand, maintain efficiency, and meet customer expectations without imposing mandatory overtime.

Shane Lynch, an Amazon warehouse associate, adds that VET allows the company to maintain the current workforce and avoid frequent hire and lay-off cycles based on demand. 

There is, however, no contractual obligation on Amazon to offer additional VET hours, nor for employees to accept them. Warehouse workers decide if they want to pick up extra shifts beyond their contracted working hours.

Employees who participate in VET are then compensated at their regular pay rate for any hours worked up to 40 in a week. Once they exceed the 40-hour threshold within a week, they become eligible for overtime pay – which the Fair Labor Standards Act has set at one and a half times the worker’s standard hourly rate.

Is Amazon VET an overtime shift? 

While VET in itself isn't automatically considered overtime, it can lead to overtime compensation under certain circumstances. The determining factor is the total number of hours worked from Monday to Sunday.

Once an Amazon warehouse employee crosses the 40-hour mark in a week, their subsequent VET shifts are classified as overtime as per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This means they transition from their standard pay rates to earning 50 percent for each VET hour above the workweek threshold. 

For warehouse workers to make the most out of VET, they should closely monitor their total weekly hours while strategically scheduling shifts. The A-to-Z app itself comes with handy tools for tracking work hours, so you should be able to work out the VET schedules that could potentially cross over into the overtime pay bracket.

How does voluntary extra time work?

The VET opportunities at Amazon are scheduled according to workload fluctuations across its vast warehouse network. By allowing employees to opt into additional shifts voluntarily, the company hopes to manage occasional spikes in demand or staffing shortfalls without resorting to mandatory overtime or hiring temporary Amazon warehouse workers.

All upcoming VET schedules are announced through the A-to-Z app, which is Amazon's centralized shift management system. Eligible employees get equal access to available opportunities, which they can claim or ignore at their convenience. 

Jesse Gauthier, an Amazon warehouse employee who has been serving Michigan for a little over one year, explains that there are different types of VET shifts on offer. “You can pick up a VET shift for as little as 2 hours, up to a full day. You may also select a VET shift that is outside your normal work hours. For instance, if you normally work during the day, you could have the option to pick up a VET night shift.”

The timing of those VET hours tends to shift from week to week, giving warehouse workers the privilege to adjust their overtime schedules according to personal commitments and preferences.

Attending the assigned slots is not optional, though. Whenever an Amazon warehouse employee ultimately signs up for VET, they’re required to show up on time to fulfill their assigned work obligations. 

What warehouse job roles qualify for Amazon VET?

Amazon's Voluntary Extra Time (VET) is accessible across a wide range of roles, from entry-level warehouse associates to highly specialized positions – occupied by full-time, part-time, seasonal, and permanent employees. VET offers also extend to all the categories of Amazon warehouses – including fulfillment centers , sortation centers , and delivery stations

The allocation of VET shifts is, however, often contingent upon the specific department or role an employee serves within Amazon's expensive warehouse network. Workers in the picking roles, for instance, will only see VET offers for tasks within their department. 

At times, Amazon may open cross-departmental VET slots, allowing employees trained in multiple areas (such as dock work or quality assurance) to take on related departments with the highest demand-to-worker ratio.

Eligibility for VET also depends on an employee’s tenure with Amazon. Upon successfully applying for an Amazon warehouse job, you might not be able to access all the available opportunities during the initial onboarding stages. The full privileges typically come a few weeks after new recruits have settled in and acclimatized to Amazon’s warehouse tasks. 

Due to these policy differences between warehouse roles, which may also vary by location, employees are encouraged to consult their managers for clarity on VET eligibility and participation.

When is voluntary extra time offered?

By “high-demand periods”, we’re principally referring to Amazon’s busiest shopping seasons such as November and December. This is when VET shifts may be used to supplement workers’ efforts in meeting peak operational demands through Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the end-year holidays. Another notable peak occurs in mid-July with Prime Day, followed by a moderately busy back-to-school shopping period from July to August. 

MET is, however, more common during these periods as the staffing is already stretched thin,” argues Shane. “VET opportunities are more available in, say, a random Tuesday in March when people call out of work or maybe a days after Super Bowl when staffing levels drop suddenly.”

That notwithstanding, the frequency and volume of VET offers can vary widely across different Amazon warehouse locations. Each location schedules its overtime shifts according to its distinct operational needs. 

Interestingly, peak seasons may also be different between Amazon warehouse departments. It’s possible that, for instance, the inbound department at a particular fulfillment center may ramp up their activities earlier in the year around October, and then continue until January. The same facility’s outbound department, on the other hand, might see increased activity from November through January or February.

To increase the likelihood of being selected for those VET opportunities at Amazon, employees are advised to broaden their capabilities by cross-training in various warehouse functions. 

Otherwise, for people who are not seeing any VET offerings in their A to Z app, Jesse Gauthier suggests reaching out to your manager. “Some facilities will encourage communication with your manager to see if they can create a VET shift for you,” he explains. 

Keep in mind, though, that Amazon caps the maximum work hours at 60 per week. You won’t be able to take any additional warehouse shifts beyond that. 

How much do Amazon warehouses pay for voluntary extra time? 

Employees participating in VET are compensated at their regular hourly rate for additional shifts worked up to 40 hours per week.

Once they cross the threshold, Amazon adjusts its pay policy in line with federal labor laws for overtime. All hours worked beyond the 40-hour threshold are considered overtime and paid at a rate of 1.5 times the regular hourly wage. 

To put it into perspective, if a warehouse associate’s base rate is $25 per hour, any overtime work done through VET will be paid at $37.50 per hour.

Amazon’s overtime pay is, however, only open to hourly warehouse employees like pickers, sorters, stowers, packers, problem solvers, slam operators, etc. You can earn it as a seasonal or permanent Amazon warehouse worker. Salaried roles – which are mostly occupied by senior-level employees – are otherwise not eligible for additional pay for hours worked beyond their contracted hours.

Some facilities may offer an additional incentive of an extra $2-$5/per hour when you select an optional VET shift,” adds Jesse. “This is called surge pay and is typically only offered during peak and prime season.”

Amazon VET vs VTO: What’s the difference? 

Voluntary Extra time (VET) and Voluntary Time Off (VTO) are both optional policies that Amazon uses to balance the workload with its employees’ needs. 

Amazon VET opportunities are particularly relevant during peak seasons or special sales events when the company anticipates higher demand. They allow warehouse employees to voluntarily work additional hours beyond their normal shifts. Compensation is subsequently calculated at the employee's standard hourly wages, with 50% more for any hours worked beyond 40 in a week.

Conversely, Amazon’s VTO policy is often applied during periods of low operational demand. It offers warehouse employees the option to take unpaid time off, thus reducing the company’s labor costs without forcing layoffs or cutbacks. Employees choosing VTO won't receive pay during the entire period, nor will they face any negative repercussions for reducing their work hours. Your UPT balance will therefore remain intact.

The two policies are accessible to full-time and part-time employees, as well as seasonal and permanent Amazon warehouse jobs – though the availability and application of VET and VTO can vary by location. 

Can you drop assigned VET opportunities at Amazon?

No, you won’t be able to drop a VET warehouse shift after claiming it through the app. Your Amazon scheduling system automatically locks into that commitment, without the option to cancel, transfer, or postpone it. 

Amazon further follows up to confirm that employees have fulfilled their VET obligations. If you otherwise fail to show up without adequate prior notice or valid reason, there will be penalties. Amazon might deduct points from your Unpaid Personal Time (UPT) or Paid Time Off (PTO) balances. Then if you continue missing your VET shifts over a prolonged period, the company may consider terminating your employment contract. 

According to Vaughn Winslow, a Phoenix-based warehouse associate, Amazon will treat your missed VET schedule like a skipped regular schedule. They’ll hold it against you, and if it drops your UPT to negative, then you will be terminated. 

Can Paid Time Off be used on VET?

Amazon's Paid Time Off (PTO) policy extends to its warehouse employees the opportunity to take paid leave for various reasons, including emergencies, personal matters, or simply for some much-needed rest. Although these breaks are generally taken during regular work hours, they are also applicable to VET shifts.

With PTO, employees can manage unforeseen circumstances without forgoing earnings from their VET shifts. However, this convenience comes with its downsides. Using PTO to skip scheduled VET shifts can lead to staffing shortfalls, potentially putting additional strain on remaining team members and disrupting operations. 

Regularly opting out of Amazon’s VET opportunities may raise questions about an employee's reliability and commitment. This could reduce their chances of transitioning from seasonal to permanent Amazon employment or hinder their opportunities for promotion to senior warehouse positions.

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