Hours of work

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EmployerEmployee / worker

wa_image_small.jpg This information is only relevant to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system – sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trusts and some incorporated or not for profit organisations.  Find out more on the Guide to who is in the WA state system page.

If you operate or are employed by a Pty Ltd business – you can find information on this topic on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Most WA awards regulate the number of hours employees can work and when these hours can be worked. A 38 hour week is the normal hours for a full time employee under the majority of WA awards. A part time or casual employee can work less hours per week, and many WA awards establish minimum and/or maximum numbers of hours for part time and casual employees. 

A 38 hour week is the normal hours for a full time employee who is award free. Award free part time or casual employees can work less hours per week as agreed with the employer. There is no minimum number of hours for award free part time or casual employees but there is a maximum number of hours of 38 per week

Most WA awards establish a span of hours during which an employee must work their 38 hours per week (or appropriate part time or casual hours). There is no defined span of hours for award free employees, and no minimum entitlement to a higher rate of pay for overtime, shift work or weekends for award free employees. 

Overtime 

Overtime rates of pay may apply to employees covered by WA awards for any hours worked in excess of 38 hours per week or any hours worked outside the span of hours set by the WA award. There is no minimum entitlement for award free employees to a higher rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 38 hours per week. ​

For example, the Hairdressers Award establishes the span of hours as 8:00am and 6:00pm Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays and between 6:00pm and 9:00pm for the purpose of late night trading. Any hours worked outside this span of hours (such as working from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on a Saturday) would be considered overtime under this WA award and applicable overtime rates must be paid. 

Penalty rates

Many WA awards require penalty rates to be paid for specified working days or times. Penalty rates are higher rates of pay that apply when an employee works hours that are inside the span of hours set by the relevant WA award but have a penalty rate applied to them, such as on Sundays or public holidays. 

For example, the Shop and Warehouse (Wholesale and Retail Establishments) Award requires payment of a penalty rate of double time and a half when an employee works on a public holiday. 

There is no minimum entitlement to any penalty rates for award free employees. 

If you know your WA award – please check the WA award summaries for information on hours of work. 

If you don’t know which award applies to your business, contact Wageline.

Reasonable hours of work

There is a minimum condition of employment relating to reasonable hours of work that applies to employees on all WA awards and all award free employees.  

Employees can only be required to work 38 hours per week (or any other standard working week set by a WA award) plus reasonable additional hours. 

In determining whether additional hours are reasonable, all relevant factors are to be taken into account, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • will there be any risk to the employee’s health or safety?
  • what are the employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities?
  • what is the nature of the business and work done?
  • has the employer provided the employee with notice about working additional hours?
  • has the employee provided the employer with notice about their intention to refuse to work the additional hours?
  • are the additional hours on a public holiday?
  • how many hours has the employee worked over the previous four weeks?

Other issues may also be considered when determining if hours are reasonable.

Reducing a full time or part time employee’s regular working hours 

As a general principle, a variation to an employment contract which reduces a full time or part time employee’s regular working hours can only be done with the agreement of both the employer and employee. An agreed variation which reduces an employee’s regular working hours may amount to a termination of the original contract of employment and the creation of a new contract.

For example, changing a full time employee to a part time employee is a fundamental change to the employee’s original contract of employment which impliedly terminates the contract and creates a new contract. In this situation, an employer would be obliged to provide notice of termination (of the original contract) or payment in lieu of notice. The amount of notice of the reduction in working hours would be the same notice the employee would have been entitled to if their employment had been terminated.

Information on notice periods is available on the Redundancy notice periods and the Dismissal notice periods page.

A notice period is to be paid according to the employee’s working hours under the original contract of employment. Payment in lieu of notice, where the employee is now working reduced hours, equals the difference between the amount the employee would have been paid according to their original working hours and the reduced hours they are now working for the duration of the notice period.

Is an employee required to accept a reduction in working hours? 

As a general principle, a full time or part time employee is not required to accept a reduction in working hours. Where a full time or part time employee refuses to accept an employer’s decision to reduce the employee’s working hours, the employee may be able to argue that the employer has effectively terminated the contract of employment. The employer would then be required to provide notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice and may be required to pay redundancy pay. 

However, there may be provisions in an award, industrial agreement or contract of employment which address the circumstances in which an employer may change a full time or part time employee’s working hours without the employee’s agreement. Employers should comply with these provisions.

Can an employer increase an employee’s regular working hours?

An employer can ask or require a full time, part time or casual employee to work:

  • either 38 hours per week, or the ordinary hours specified in an award or industrial agreement; plus 
  • reasonable additional hours.  See the information about ‘Reasonable hours of work’ above.

Employers must also comply with the provisions of a WA award or industrial agreement which may include requirements regarding working hours, overtime and penalty rates of pay.

Rostering

Many WA awards require employers to establish and display working rosters in the workplace. If you know your WA award – please check the WA award summaries for information on rostering and working hours.  If you don’t know which award applies, contact Wageline.

Working hours for children 

Employment laws restrict when and where children can work.  The When children can work page provides details on working hours for children.

Keeping records of working hours

If employees are covered by a WA award, the employer is required to record daily start and finish times and meal breaks taken for each employee. If employees are award free, the employer must record total number of hours worked each week, if the employee earns less than $45,000 per annum.

All state system employers are legally required to keep employment records that detail time worked, leave taken and pay received by employees.

Learn more on the Employment records - Employer obligations page

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