Understanding Reasonable Additional Hours: A Handbook for Employers

Defining Acceptable Additional Hours under Australian Employment Legislation

Within the framework of Australian employment legislation, acceptable additional hours denote the additional work hours an employee may be required to undertake beyond their standard working hours. However, such additional hours are deemed necessary only if essential for job performance. In essence, employees reserve the right to decline requests for additional hours unless the requirement is reasonable. The Fair Work Act 2009 outlines the guidelines that employers must adhere to when necessitating additional hours from their employees.

Determinants of “Acceptable Additional Hours”

When assessing the acceptability of reasonable additional hours, the following factors must be considered:

  • Potential risks to employee health and safety.
  • Employee’s personal circumstances, including familial responsibilities.
  • Workplace or enterprise requirements.
  • Entitlement to overtime pay, penalty rates, or other compensations for additional hours worked.
  • Notice provided by the employer regarding additional hours.
  • Notice given by the employee expressing intention to refuse additional hours.
  • Industry-standard work patterns.
  • Nature of the employee’s role and level of responsibility.
  • Compliance with averaging provisions outlined in relevant awards or agreements.
  • Any other pertinent considerations.

The relevance and weighting of each factor will vary depending on the circumstances, with certain factors assuming greater importance in specific situations.

Maximum Allowable Additional Hours in Australia

There exists no defined maximum limit on acceptable additional hours in Australia. However, employers are obligated to ensure that employees do not undertake excessive additional hours, which could jeopardise their health, work-life balance, or overall well-being. Employers should consider job requirements, employee circumstances, and business demands when determining the maximum allowable additional hours for employees.

Compensation for Acceptable Additional Hours in Australia

Australian employees are entitled to compensation for acceptable additional hours worked. The National Employment Standards (NES) stipulate minimum entitlements for all Australian employees, including the right to overtime pay for additional hours worked. The compensation rate for acceptable additional hours typically exceeds the standard hourly rate, and employers must adhere to this rate unless alternative arrangements are agreed upon with the employee.

Employee Right to Decline Acceptable Additional Hours in Australia

Employees in Australia retain the right to refuse acceptable additional hours if reasonable grounds exist. Such grounds may include concerns regarding health and safety, unreasonableness of additional workload, or familial responsibilities. Employers should respect employees’ rights to refuse additional hours and refrain from penalising them for doing so.

Consequences of Breaching Australian Employment Laws Regarding Acceptable Additional Hours

Employers found in violation of Australian employment laws concerning acceptable additional hours may face legal repercussions, including fines and penalties. Additionally, employers might be required to compensate employees for any resulting financial losses. Compliance with the Fair Work Act and other relevant legislation is essential to avoid legal ramifications and safeguard reputational integrity.

Impact of Acceptable Additional Hours on Annualised Salaries in the Workplace

It is common for employees on annual salaries to have employment contracts specifying their obligation to work reasonable additional hours beyond their standard hours to fulfil job duties. Such contracts may state that the annual salary encompasses compensation for all hours worked, including acceptable additional hours. Employers should exercise caution when paying annual salaries to employees covered by modern awards to mitigate the risk of underpayment. Employment contracts should include offset clauses, clarifying that the salary incorporates all entitlements under the applicable Award based on hours worked. While the presence of additional hours in the employment contract is relevant to assessing reasonableness, it is not determinative.

How HR Connect can help

If you require assistance with dealing with disciplinary issues concerning staff, HR Connect can help. Our HR Advisors will be able to guide you through each step of the disciplinary process and we have template documents (e.g. direction to attend a disciplinary meeting, written warning, letter of termination, etc) available as part of our subscription packages.

 

 

About HR Connect

HR Connect is one of Australia’s leading providers of HR & workplace safety advice services, designed to help small business owners make confident and compliant business decisions.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in these knowledge base articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact HR Connect for advice. The information in this summary is correct as of August 2021.

 

This knowledge base article will change over time, as Modern Award legislation relating to this Industry or Occupation is passed by the Fair Work Commission. Originally published on 21 September 2021 and last updated on 18 February 2022.

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