Thursday, 12 May 2016

How many hours are in a work week?

How is it possible that a lawyer at a top tier law firm regularly puts in 80 hours a week while a bank teller will clock off right on 38 hours?

Why are there Companies out there that state a 36 hour week, others 40hours, and some I have even seen with a 45 hour week!?

You may be surprised to learn that the Fair Work Act states that maximum weekly hours are 38 per week*, but according to the ABS full time workers in Australia are averaging about 41 hours per week.

To break it down
- If you are employed under and Enterprise Agreement or Modern Award (this will be stated in the paperwork when you started) then the hours of work are based on that document. It is a legal document and even if it states your hours are more (or less) than the FWA, it applies.
- If you are employed with a contract of employment - which generally means you earn above the Award - than that contract should state your working hours. This is usually where you get employees regularly working more than 38 hours for no overtime (like our lawyer friends, but also really any professional role these days)

So I hear you scoffing and wondering how to stop working more than 38 hours per week for no pay. Well, that little * above is that any more than 38 hours per week need to be "reasonable". There are a few considerations as to what is "reasonable", but basically it could be one or more of the following: that you are given notice of the extra hours, it doesn't impede on you carer responsibiltiies,  it is a "norm" in your occupation/industry, you are given compensation (either your pay is above the minimum or you get hours in leiu, for example), your role and level in the organisation, and also "any other relevant matter". Isn't that a nice catch all?
Therefore to go back to our lawyer friends, if you are working 50 hours a week as a regular pattern and even more than that when busy, that is probably seen as reasonable for the role, industry and pay. If you are working 50 hours at a petrol station and not getting overtime, that is unlikley to be seen as being reasonable. (Let alone the Award undoubtably contains overtime provisions).

If you are consistently working more than 38 hours per week AND you don't think it is reasonable you have a few options:
1. Have a chat with your Manager. You may not realise that they have no idea what hours you are doing! Go to them with a plan about how to reduce your workload to get your hours back to a fair amount
2.You could just stop doing the extra hours. I know that can be difficult to consider, but how about looking at how many times a day you go for a coffee and end up chatting with people on the way back and forth? How many inane meetings you attend? What can you do to try and make your time more productive so you can get back to an 8 hour day?
3.If you really feel like you are being exploited, and you don't have a relationship with your Manager where you can discuss this openly, then you can put it in writing to your employer and explain why you don't feel the hours are reasonable and use the criteria stated by FairWork  here as a guide.

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