Working overtime at Christmas time

Wednesday 2 December, 2015 | By: Default Admin | Tags: Fair Work Act, overtime, casual employees

The Christmas period can often be the busiest time of year for a small business.

In many industries it is a time when sales will increase in order to keep up with the demand. The hours will increase and subsequently staff rostering will too.

It is important that you take extra time when rostering for this busy period and ensure that you fully understand what overtime and penalty rates apply for each employee.

By doing this, you can reduce staffing costs and manage fatigue of your employees.

You are able to request that your employee’s work reasonable overtime as it is required by the business.

Keep in mind that an employee can refuse to work overtime, if the request was unreasonable.

According to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Sect 62), overtime requests will be reasonable as long as the following are taken into account:

  • Any risks to employee health and safety from working extra hours
  • The employee’s personal situation, including family responsibilities
  • The needs of the workplace or enterprise
  • If the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments or penalty rates or other compensation for working extra hours
  • If the employee was given enough notice that they may be required to work overtime
  • If the employee has already stated they can’t ever work overtime
  • The nature of the employees role and their level of responsibility
  • The usual patterns of work in the industry

In particular, for businesses in the retail industry, customer sales will usually peak at Christmas time and you will therefore require more staff to be present, or for existing staff to work additional hours.

Overtime provisions in the General Retail Industry Award 2010

Overtime - Full-time and Part-time General Retail Industry employees

Full-time employees get overtime rates if they work:

  • more than the maximum number of ordinary hours of work (9 per day, with the exception of one 11 hour shift per week, or a total of 38 per week);
  • outside the spread of ordinary hours (see below table);
  • more than their agreed hours (relating to part-time employee’s only);
  • outside the roster conditions; 

For employees who don't regularly work Sundays, working outside of roster conditions means:

  • working more than 6 days in a row;
  • not getting 2 days off in a row each week (unless they agree not to);
  • not getting 3 days off in a row in a fortnight (unless they agree not to); or,

For employees who do regularly work Sundays, working outside of roster conditions means:

  • not getting 3 days off in a row, that includes a Saturday and Sunday, over 4 weeks (unless they agree not to)

Overtime - Casual employees

Casual don't get overtime rates under this Award. They get paid their ordinary hourly rate for all hours worked. Casuals do have a minimum engagement period of 3 hours, and cannot work more than 9 hours in one day, with the exception of one 11 hour shift per week.

Keep in mind penalty rates for working Saturday or Sunday will apply.

The ordinary hours in the General Retail Award can be worked during the following times:

Hours of workFair Work Commission will audit 250 Far North Queensland Businesses

The Fair Work Commission has advised that they will be conducting an audit among 250 random businesses in the Cairns, Innisfail and Cassowary Coast area over the coming months.

The Fair Work inspectors will be checking that employers are complying with their applicable modern award and are paying correct minimum hourly rates, penalties, allowances, loadings, and providing the correct meal breaks.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the region is home to thousands of businesses, and a wide range of industries will be involved in this program. The aim is to ensure employers are aware of their workplace responsibilities to pay correctly and understand what processes should be put in place to ‘get it right in the future’.

Employers were urged by the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay more attention to wage rates after a similar program was conducted in Alice Springs in May this year.

It was found that 216 employees were underpaid a total of $70,000, with one business owing $15,000 of that amount itself. Of the 67 businesses audited in the area, 24 (36 per cent) were paying their staff incorrectly. And a further 16 employers were found to have both monetary and record-keeping or payslip contraventions.

There are a number of tools available to employers to determine the correct award and minimum wages for employees. Fair Work have created a Pay and Conditions Tool which can be used to find all wage rates and penalties, click here.

FWO: Employers urged to pay greater attention to wage rates after 200 Alice Springs workers underpaid

FWO: Spot checks for 250 Far North Queensland businesses

CCIQ Assistance

The CCIQ Employer Assistance team have created easy to use Wage and Allowance Guides for all of the 122 Modern Awards, which can be accessed from the members only area of our website, log in here.

CCIQ members who are require assistance determining the modern award, overtime rates, penalty rates, allowances, loadings or any other wage related matter should seek advice from the Employer Assistance Team on 1300 731 988 or

Throughout the Christmas period the Employer Assistance Team will be available during our ordinary business hours, 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, on all days excluding the public holidays.


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