Understanding Reasonable Additional Hours:

A Guide for Employers and Employees

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What are Reasonable Additional Hours under Australian employment law?

Under Australian employment law, reasonable additional hours are defined as the hours of work that an employee is required to work beyond their normal working hours, but only if the additional hours are necessary to perform the job.To put it another way, employees can refuse requests to work additional hours, unless the requirement to work those hours is reasonable. The Fair Work Act 2009 sets out the rules that employers must follow when requiring employees to work additional hours.

What Factors Determine “Reasonable Additional Hours”?

In determining whether additional hours are reasonable or unreasonable, the following must be taken into account:

  • Any risk to employee health and safety;
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities;
  • The needs of the workplace or enterprise;
  • Whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates or other compensation for (or a level of remuneration that reflects an expectation of) working additional hours;
  • Any notice given by the employer to work the additional hours;
  • Any notice given by the employee of his or her intention to refuse to work the additional hours;
  • The usual patterns of work in the industry;
  • The nature of the employee’s role and the employee’s level of responsibility;
  • Whether the additional hours are in accordance with averaging provisions included in an award or agreement that is applicable to the employee, or an averaging arrangement agreed to by an employer and an award/agreement-free employee; and
  • Any other relevant matter.

The relevance of each of these factors and the weight to be given to each of them will vary according to the particular circumstances. In some cases, a single factor will be of particular importance.

What is the maximum number of Reasonable Additional Hours that can be worked in Australia?

There is no maximum number of reasonable additional hours that an employee can work in Australia. However, employers are required to ensure that their employees do not work excessive additional hours, which could affect their health and safety, work-life balance, or overall well-being. Employers should always consider the nature of the job, the employee’s personal circumstances, and the business’s workload when determining the maximum number of reasonable additional hours that an employee can work.

Do Australian employees get paid for Reasonable Additional Hours?

Yes, Australian employees are entitled to be paid for reasonable additional hours worked. The National Employment Standards (NES) sets out the minimum entitlements for all employees in Australia, including the right to overtime pay for additional hours worked. The rate of pay for reasonable additional hours is usually higher than the ordinary hourly rate, and employers must pay this rate unless they have made other arrangements with the employee.

Can employees refuse to work Reasonable Additional Hours in Australia?

Yes, employees in Australia have the right to refuse to work reasonable additional hours if they have reasonable grounds to do so. This could include situations where the additional hours could affect their health and safety, where it would be unreasonable to expect them to work the additional hours, or where they have family or carer responsibilities. Employers should always respect their employees’ right to refuse additional hours and should not penalise them for doing so.

What are the consequences for Australian employers who violate employment laws related to Reasonable Additional Hours?

Employers who violate Australian employment laws related to reasonable additional hours may face legal consequences, including fines and penalties. Employers may also be required to compensate employees for any financial loss or damage caused by the violation. It is essential for employers to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the Fair Work Act and other applicable legislation to avoid legal action and reputational damage.

How do reasonable additional hours affect an annualised salary in the workplace?

It is common for employees paid an annual salary to have an employment contract which states that they are required to work such reasonable additional hours over their ordinary hours as is necessary to perform the duties required by their role. The contract may also state that the annual salary is to compensate an employee for all hours they work (i.e. it includes payment for any reasonable additional hours they work).

Employers should be cautious when paying annual salaries to employees covered by Modern Awards because of the risk of underpayments. Where an annual salary is paid the employee’s employment contract should contain an offset clause i.e. a term that makes it clear that the salary has been calculated to include all entitlements under the applicable Award and that the salary sufficiently compensates the employee for these entitlements based on the hours worked.

The fact that a requirement to work additional hours is set out in the contract of employment accepted by an employee will be relevant to whether additional hours are reasonable, but not determinative.

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The information provided in these blog 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 Employment Innovations for advice.

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