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There are rules about what employees get at work, such as what hours they work and how often they have to have a break.

“Ëmployers risk prosecution, costly back-pay claims, as well as big fines and penalties if they get it wrong.” says Sean Wilson, CEO of BetterHR.

Ordinary Hours

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 – 7pm).

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

Generally, full-time employees work 38 ordinary hours per week. Awards and agreements often don’t require those hours to be worked across 5 days.

Employers and employees can often agree to work ordinary hours in different ways. Arrangements for working an average of 38 hours per week are usually set out in your award or agreement. Some examples include:

  • working a condensed week of more hours across fewer days
  • working a 40 hour week to get an extra paid day off every 4 weeks
  • accruing and taking time off on an ad hoc basis to suit the needs of an employee and business (also known as time off in lieu or TOIL).

These arrangements can be beneficial to employees and their workplace. You will need to check your award or agreement before entering into a particular arrangement as it will usually set rules on how ordinary hours can be worked.

Awards and agreements also include individual flexibility arrangement (IFA) clauses, that allow employers and employees to agree to change some award terms to suit their individual needs. Any change must leave the employee better off overall.

To get it right, business owners and managers should always seek HR and employment law advice from a qualified expert.

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