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Reasonable additional hours

Great question and one that often comes up from employees working under an annual salary.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the Fair Work Act does not explicitly define a magic number that might constitute “reasonable additional hours.” That said, let’s work with the information available to ensure we’re on the same page on the topic.

An employer must not request or require an employee to work more than the following number of hours in a week unless the additional hours are reasonable:

(a) for a full-time employee – 38 hours; or
(b) for an employee who is not a full-time employee – the lesser of:
(i) 38 hours; and
(ii) the employee’s ordinary hours of work in a week.

An employee may refuse a request or requirement to work additional hours if the hours are unreasonable.

In determining whether additional hours are reasonable or unreasonable, Section 62 of the Fair Work Act lists factors which must be taken into account. Some of these include:

(a) any risk to employee health and safety from working the additional hours;
(b) the employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities;
(c) the needs of the workplace or enterprise in which the employee is employed;
(d) 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;
(e) any notice given by the employer of any request or requirement to work the additional hours;
(f) any notice given by the employee of his or her intention to refuse to work the additional hours;
(g) the usual patterns of work in the industry, or the part of an industry, in which the employee works;
(h) the nature of the employee’s role, and the employee’s level of responsibility

The maximum weekly hours defined in the Fair Work Act allows an employer to request an employee work reasonable additional hours in the week. If the employee is a senior manager and their contract of employment specifies a requirement to work additional hours, their higher management remuneration and benefits, together with the implied nature of the role and responsibilities may be sufficient to ensure additional hours are “reasonable” for the purposes of their position.

Got a tricky employment question or scenario around reasonable additional hours? Bare Bones Consulting can help with the facts directly from the Fair Work Act and tailor your contracts of employment to your particular situation. We get it right so you can focus on making your business succeed. Give us a call to find out how we can help.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.