Reading time: 3 minutes

All I do is work, work, work, work, work, work. – Rhianna

We have all had those times in our life where Rhianna’s song seems to be the perfect anthem. You know, when all you do is work, work, work, work, work, work and the rest of it just seems a blur. But if you find yourself subject to a workload that is taking up your evenings and weekends, and you’re subject to a continually mounting workload, it may be worthwhile to look at your employer’s legal ability to require all those lost hours of personal time. Alternatively, you may be an employer and are curious as to what you can actually expect from your employees.

The Law

In Australia, the Fair Work Act and the National Employment Standards govern the working conditions of employees, as well as any applicable award or enterprise agreement.

A full-time working week in Australia typically consists of 38 hours, and this is how employers should interpret a “full time” role. But before you start clocking off at 5 pm on the dot, it is also important to note that an employer can require an employee to work ‘reasonable additional hours’. What is ‘reasonable’ in any particular employment relationship depends on a number of subjective factors, including:

  • The nature of the role;
  • The level of remuneration; and
  • The seniority of the employee.

Generally, employers are not entitled to pay employees below the prescribed minimum wage or the wages prescribed by any applicable award. Accordingly, giving a minimum wage administrator a workload that requires working a 50+ hour per week would result in the level of remuneration falling below the prescribed minimum wage, and not be enforceable.

Similarly, if your employment is under threat because you’re just not getting through the workload, a subsequent termination based on failure to meet the demands of the job may be deemed an unfair dismissal. This depends on the matter’s individual factors as well as whether such dismissal could be deemed harsh, unfair or unreasonable in the circumstances.

What Should an Employee Check?

As a minimum, if your life is beginning to sound like a Rhianna song, and you’re wondering if your employer’s demands are enforceable at law, you should check:

  1. The terms of your contract and, in particular, whether it requires you to work any reasonable additional hours;
  2. The level of pay received per hour on the basis of actual hours worked, and whether that falls above the minimum wage: and
  3. The terms of any applicable award or enterprise agreement.

Key Takeaways

Here, an employment lawyer will be able to help, by examining these documents and the relevant legislation to clearly advise you of your legal rights and obligations.

Also, just talking to your employer is often a good start, and will place on record any issues you have about the working hours. If you are unfairly dismissed, or request a change in your job requirements, you can rely on these discussions.

Knowing your rights and obligations is an important factor in being able to renegotiate terms, and introducing another Rhianna song back into your life – ‘cheers, to the freakin weekend!’

Webinars

Day in Court: What Happens When Your Business Goes to Court

Thursday 2 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
If your business is going to court, then you need to understand the process. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Manage a Construction Dispute

Thursday 9 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Protect your construction firm from disputes. To understand how, join our free webinar.
Register Now

Startup Financing: Venture Debt 101

Thursday 23 June | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how venture debt can help take your startup to the next level. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards