Overtime Rates.

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Casual receiving overtime

What is Overtime?

Overtime is work performed outside the ordinary hours listed in an award, agreement or as specified in the contract of employment. Ordinary hours are an employee’s normal and regular hours of work, which do not attract overtime rates.

Generally, a full-time employee can work a maximum of 38 hours in a week unless an employer asks them to work reasonable extra hours. These extra hours will usually be payable as overtime, but there may be variations depending on the nature of the job and modern award, which may specify the maximum ordinary hours an employee can work per day or week, and times within which the employee can work those ordinary hours.

Many awards define overtime is defined as work performed beyond the maximum number of daily and/or weekly hours, outside the daily span of ordinary hours (ie. 7.00am – 7.00pm), or outside the agreed number of hours in the employment agreement.

The application of the above terms may apply to full-time, part-time and even casual employees.

What Are Overtime Rates?

When an employee works overtime, they may be entitled to an overtime rate, which is may be higher than the ordinary rate. This will depend upon the Modern Award or Industrial Instrument which covers the employee. As the rate of pay for overtime may differ depending on when it is worked, the applicable rate should also be specified in the respective award, registered agreement, or employment contract.

Such payments are intended to compensate employees for the inconvenience of having to work additional hours and provide reward for them doing so.

Overtime Rules

Each industry award and agreement has its own overtime rules, which dictate when overtime may be worked and when an overtime rate is applicable. Employers should be familiar with the overtime rules of their particular award, or else they could face a dispute and be forced to pay back any money owed.

When Does An Overtime Rate Apply?

An award, registered agreement or the employment contract will set out the overtime rate and when overtime rates apply, generally when working:

  • beyond the employee’s ordinary hours of work
  • outside the agreed number of hours
  • outside the ‘spread’ of ordinary hours.

An employer may not have to pay extra for ‘reasonable’ overtime if the employee is paid a higher rate of pay to off-set award entitlements as expressed in their employment contract or registered agreement.

Some awards, registered agreements or employment contracts may allow an employee to take paid time off instead of receiving overtime pay. This is commonly known as ‘time off in lieu’. If employers opt for this approach, it needs to be established in writing with the employee’s consent and meet any award or agreement requirements.

Reasonable Overtime

The health and safety of an employee must be taken into account when asking them to work overtime. Working beyond a normal 38-hour working week may increase the risk of personal injury, fatigue and work-related stress.

It is reasonable to ask an employee to work overtime as long as the following factors are considered:

  • whether there is any risk to the health and safety that specifically arises from the working of extra hours
  • the employee’s personal situation including, but not limited to, their family responsibilities
  • the needs of the workplace
  • compensation for having worked the additional hours
  • notice given to the employee that they may be required to work overtime
  • if the employee has previously stated they cannot work overtime
  • the usual patterns of work in the industry

An employee can only refuse to work overtime, if having considered the relevant factors above, the request is unreasonable.

When considering whether the employee has received adequate compensation, you can look to any arrangement whereby the employee is paid a higher ordinary rate on the understanding they are required to work some overtime from time-to-time.

Get Workplace Advice Now

Want more information on overtime? Call Employsure now on 1300 207 182 to learn more.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 27,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Is An Overtime Rate?

    Overtime is when an employee works extra hours. It can include work:

    • beyond the employee’s ordinary hours of work
    • outside the agreed number of hours
    • outside the ‘spread’ of ordinary hours.

    An overtime rate is higher than the ordinary rate. The rate of pay for overtime may differ depending on when it is worked, when overtime rates apply and the applicable rate should be specified in the respective award, registered agreement, or employment contract.

  • How Is Overtime Calculated In Australia?

    It will depend on when the overtime is worked and the provisions in the relevant award, registered agreement or employment contract.

  • How Is Overtime Paid In Australia?

    Overtime is payable as proscribed by an award, registered agreement or employment contract.

    However, an employer may not have to pay extra for ‘reasonable’ overtime if the employee is paid a higher rate of pay to off-set award entitlements as expressed in their employment contract or registered agreement.

  • Can I Ask My Employee To Work Overtime?

    Yes, an employer can request that an employee works reasonable overtime.

  • Can An Employee Refuse To Work Overtime?

    Yes, an employee can refuse to work overtime, if the request is unreasonable.

  • Can I Fire An Employee For Refusing To Work Overtime?

    It will depend on the circumstances. For more information, please call Employsure on 1300 207 182.

  • What Is Considered Reasonable Overtime In Australia?

    Overtime will likely be considered reasonable if there are no health and safety implications and the following is taken into account:

    • the employee’s personal situation, including their family responsibilities
    • the workplace’s needs
    • if the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments or penalty rates for working the extra hours
    • if they are paid at a higher rate on the understanding that they work some overtime
    • if the employee was given enough notice that they may have to work overtime
    • if the employee has already stated they can’t ever work overtime
    • the usual patterns of work in the industry.

    Ultimately what is reasonable turns on the facts and circumstances of each individual situation.

  • Is Making My Employee Work Overtime The Best Option?

    Not necessarily. There may be health and safety issues if an employee is required to work long hours, for example fatigue, increased risk of injury or even mental health issues. Working excessive overtime can affect productivity and an employee’s work-life balance, leading to a disgruntled employee.

  • Can Overtime Be Paid As Time In Lieu?

    Some awards or agreements may allow an employee to take paid time off, instead of receiving overtime pay. This is commonly known as ‘time off in lieu’. If employers opt for this approach, it needs to be established in writing with the employee’s consent and meet any award or agreement requirements.

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