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Employsure’s Guide To Fair Working Hours

Published February 16, 2016 (last updated June 17, 2020) -
employees working hour

Employers pay their employees based on hours worked. These hours must be fair with any overtime or shift loadings paid to the applicable employee. Below is a guide to managing fair working hours in your workplace.

Reasonable hours of work

An employer must not request or require a full time employee to work more than 38 hours in a week, unless the additional hours are reasonable. For an employee who is not employed on a full time basis, they must work less than 38 hours a week.

In determining what is and is not reasonable the following factors must be taken into account:

  • whether the additional hours pose a threat to the employee’s health and safety
  • the employee’s personal circumstances, including any family responsibilities
  • whether the employee is entitled to overtime, penalty rates, or a level of remuneration as a result of working additional hours
  • the level of notice given by the employer to the employee of the request to work additional hours
  • the nature of the employee’s role and level of responsibility within the business
  • whether the additional hours are in accordance with the applicable Modern Award or enterprise agreement under the Fair Work Act.

Overtime is any work undertaken outside of ordinary hours, as specified in an Award or agreement. The details of when overtime is applicable are different under each Award and registered agreement, so be sure to check what applies to your workplace. Some awards and agreements may allow for time off to be taken, rather than being paid overtime. This is known as ‘time off in lieu’ or TOIL.

Casual employees

Casual employees are employed on an irregular basis, with no set roster or routine and no guarantee of continued employment. Instead casuals work only on the demands of the business.

Casual staff are not entitled to annual leave or paid/ personal leave, but are entitled to casual loading as set out in the applicable award or enterprise agreement.


Breaks allow employees to take a short period of time to rest during their working shift.

Awards and enterprise agreements provide paid and unpaid rest breaks and include:

  • the length of the breaks
  • when the breaks need to be taken
  • when the breaks are paid or unpaid

Some Awards and enterprise agreements may also include a provision for the amount of time which must pass in between the end of one shift and the beginning of the next.


Rosters are timetables which communicate to employees the days and hours in which they are required to work. When an employer wishes to make changes to an employee’s roster or ordinary hours of work, they must communicate and consult with the employee in accordance with the terms of the award or enterprise agreement.

Employers do not have to reach an agreement with their employee regarding changes to their working roster, but they do have an obligation to genuinely consult with them.

A rostered day off is a day during the rostered period where an employee is not required to work. This may be paid or unpaid, with the provisions being set out in the applicable modern award or agreement.

When rostered days off are paid, it is normally due to the employee having worked extra hours that add up over a set period of time and this is taken as a rostered day off.

Public holidays

Employees (with the exception of casual employees) who normally work on the day a public holiday falls, will be paid their base pay rate for their ordinary hours of work.

Employees who do work on a public holiday are generally entitled to a higher rate of pay, as set by the award or enterprise agreement.

Employees are not obligated to work on a public holiday, yet the employer is entitled to request them to work if their request is reasonable. The employee is able to refuse to work if they have reasonable grounds.

If you have any questions relating to fair working hours in your workplace, contact Employsure today. We can answer any questions you may have in regards to employee entitlements, reasonable working hours and changes to employee rosters. Call one of our experts today on 1300 651 415.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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