Preparing to engage workers – knowing parts of the award

As we keep moving forward in our Payroll/HR themed blogs, this week we look at understanding parts of the award or agreements that you will be operating on.  It is a great idea to have all this knowledge so when or if your staff question you, you are able to assist them.

Having a general knowledge on these four areas is also great to help things run smoothly with your staff.

Hours of Work

As previously discussed in the first blog of this series – Preparing to engage workers – employment types.  There are different types of employment, the main being Full-Time, Part-Time and Casual.  The hours and treatment of hours for each employment type varies.

Full Time – works, on average, 38 hours per week and they are usually standard hours each week, eg. 9 – 5 Monday to Friday.

Part Time – works, on average, less than 38 hours per week.  The hours are usually regular each week, eg. They are on a 20 hour a week contact and work Monday to Friday 9 – 1.

Casual – has no guarantee of hours of work and the hours are usually irregular hours.  They can be called in at short notice as well.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 Ordinary Hours are an employee’s normal and regular hours of work, which do not attract overtime rates.

Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements set out any:

  • Maximum ordinary hours in a day, week, fortnight or month
  • Minimum ordinary hours in a day
  • Times of the day ordinary hours can be worked (eg. Between 7am and 7pm).

The ordinary hours can be different for full-time, part-time and casual employees.

The maximum weekly hours an employee can work is 38 hours in a week.

The time of the day ordinary hours are worked is called the spread of hours (eg. Between 7am – 7pm).  Time worked outside the spread of ordinary hours can attract overtime rates.

To find our more information about maximum and minimum hours of work and the spread of hours you need to look up your award at the Fair Work Website.  To understand more about awards and agreements you can read my blog – preparing to engage workers – Fair Work.

The award that your staff work under will set out for you the hours that Full-time, Part-time and Casual workers can work.  For example, the Hospitality Award allows for the 38 hours to be averaged over a 4 week period, meaning that for the first week they can work 50 hours, the next week 45, the third week they can work 20 and the fourth week they can work 37.  Total hours worked in the 4 week block is 152 (38 x 4), but the hours have been able to be varied each week to fit in with the demand of trade.


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

  • Beyond their ordinary hours of work
  • Outside the agreed number of hours
  • Outside the spread of ordinary hours

An award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement will set out when overtime rates apply.  So once again, it is a good idea to understand the award or agreement that you will be employing staff under.

An employer can request that an employee works reasonable overtime.  Over time can be reasonable so long as the following things are taken into account:

  • Any risk to health and safety from working the extra hours
  • The employee’s personal situation, including their family responsibilities
  • The needs of the workplace
  • If the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments or penalty rates for work extra hours
  • If they are paid at a higher rate on the understanding that they work some overtime
  • If the employee has already stated they can’t ever work overtime
  • The usual pattern of work in the industry

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

It is important that health and safety issues are considered and managed if an employee has to work overtime.


There are three main types of breaks, rest breaks, meal breaks and breaks between shifts.  You really need to understand the difference between them all and if they are paid or unpaid breaks.

A rest break allows an employee to rest for a short period of time during work hours.  Rest breaks are also referred to as ‘crib breaks’, ‘rest pauses’ or ‘tea breaks’.

A meal break is a longer period of uninterrupted rest that allows the employee to eat a meal.

Once again, getting to know your award or agreement that you will be paying your staff under is a great idea.  As they will set out the details of any paid and unpaid rest breaks and meal breaks, including:

  • The length of the breaks
  • When they need to be taken
  • The rules about payment

Awards and agreements may also provide information about the minimum amount of time off between the end of one shift and the start of another.

Lets look at the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010 and see what it states for breaks.

A rest break is a 10 minute paid break that counts as time worked

A meal break is a 30 – 60 minute unpaid break that doesn’t count as time worked, except for shift workers.

Meal breaks for shift workers are 20 minute paid breaks and count as time worked.  This break is instead of the 30 – 60 minute unpaid meal break.

An employee gets the following number of breaks, depending on the hours they actually work (not their rostered hours).

Number of hours worked Rest Breaks Meal Breaks
Less than 3 hours 0 0
3 – 5 hours 1 0
5 – 8 hours 1 1
Over 8 hours 2 1

An employee who gets 2 rest breaks has to take 1 break in the first half of their shift, and the other break in the second half of their shift.

Employees can’t be asked to work more than 5 hours without a meal break.

If an employee doesn’t get their meal break they have to be paid double time for the time they worked until they get a meal break.

Employees who work overtime should get a minimum break of 10 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work the next.


A roster is a timetable that shows the days and times employees are required to work.

No matter how small your team is going to be, a staff roster is really important to have as it helps with the running of the operations of your business.  If you didn’t have a roster, there would be confusion between yourself and your staff over who was working when, what days, what hours and you wouldn’t know if all the shits that you needed covered would be covered or what clients were being serviced.

This is an example of the Roster I use in our bookkeeping business.  It is done on a spreadsheet with each staff member having a different tab.

Staff Roster

Here is an example of a simple staff roster

Simple Staff Roster

If you would like to download this you can do so by clicking HERE.

When an employer wants to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work, they have to discuss it with the employees first.  They have to:

  • Provide information about the change (eg. What the change will be and when)
  • Invite employees to give their views about the impact of the change
  • Consider these views about the impact of the change.

Once again your award or agreement will set out extra rules about changing rosters and how and when employees are given rosters.

Here is an example of how the award helps you understand rostering.  This example is from the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010.

Notification of rosters

An employer has to put the staff rosters in a place that full-time and part-time employees on the roster can access easily.

The rosters have to show the following information on the roster:

  • the name of each employee
  • the start and finish times each day they work
  • the minimum break between shifts of 10 hours (or 8 hours for changeover rosters).

Changing the rosters

An employee’s roster can only be changed:

  • at any time, if the employer and employee agree, or  
  • if the employer gives the employee 7 days notice.

To find out more about who this award applies to, go to Awards.

Source reference: Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 [MA000009] clause 30 

So now you have a better understanding of Hours or Work, Overtime, Breaks and Rosters.  If you have any questions relating to this article or any others that you have read, please feel free to email me or contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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