Roster rights

Has your manager scheduled you on for a shift with 20 minutes notice? Are you working extra hours with no extra pay? Have your hours suddenly been slashed? This fact sheet answers those questions and more about your roster rights.

Check your type of employment

The rules around rosters depend on a few different things, including what type of worker you are. Check whether you are a: 

  • Full-time worker 
  • Part-time worker 
  • Casual worker 

If you’re not sure which type of employment you fall under, this fact sheet outlines the most common types.

The fact sheet covers the rules for full-time, part-time and casual employees. Unfortunately, contractors are not protected in the same way by these minimum entitlements – because they are technically a business, they are solely responsible for adhering to minimum standards.

How being in a union helps

When it comes to issues around rosters and hours of work, there are three reasons why being a union member really makes a difference. 

  1. You know what your rights are specific to you and your workplace. This fact sheet only outlines minimum standards. By talking to your union, you can quickly get information about roster rules tailored to your situation. 
  1. You have delegates standing by you. Having a union delegate, who is also one of your coworkers, means you have someone who can represent you and make sure your voice is heard. 
  1. Unions are the reason why we have a 38-hour work week in the first place. Union members continue to strive for working weeks that reflect modern workplaces and prevent burnout, whether that be through Rostered Days Off or four-day work weeks. 

Working week

The National Employment Standards (NES) state that your ‘ordinary hours’ can’t go past 38 hours.  

However, there are many exceptions that means your employer can ask you to do more hours than that. 

For example, your employer can ask you to do more than 38 hours per week, but the request must be reasonable.

Roster changes

Your employer must consult with you and/or your delegates first before making any changes to your regular roster or your regular hours of work. This is the case for any employees covered by an Award or an Enterprise Agreement. During the consultation process, you can give your view about how the changes might affect you – including things outside of work like family commitments or caring responsibilities. 

The only workers employers don’t have to consult are employees with irregular, sporadic or unpredictable working hours. If you’re a casual worker, that does not automatically exclude you. Some (but not all) casual employees work a regular roster. Check with your union if you’re not sure whether your employer should be consulting with you on roster changes.  

Of course, every workplace has its own style. It’s always a good idea to double check the details with your union.

Frequently Asked Questions

First, in most cases your employer needs to consult with you and/or your delegates about any roster changes to your regular shifts or days. Changes can include changing the times or days of shifts, but roster changes can also include cancelling shifts. But after your regular hours have been fixed, your employer just needs to give you notice of any changes to your regular start and/or finish times. Chat to your union if you’re not sure how much notice is required at your workplace.

If you’re a casual worker, you have the right to refuse, swap or change shifts in most cases. If you’re a part-time or full-time worker, your employer must go through the consultation process outlined above (or the process in your Award or enterprise agreement) before making changes to your regular days and hours.

For casual workers, you are allowed to pull out of a shift if personal or family commitments change. You should give as much notice as possible, but you’re not ‘locked in’ the same way part-time or full-time workers are. 

For part-time and full-time employees, it depends on the type of commitment. For example, if you need to care for an unwell family member, then you just have to give notice as soon as possible for personal leave. If it’s for a funeral, it’s the same thing, but for compassionate leave instead of personal leave. 

Otherwise, you can request your employer change the roster, but they can reject your request if you’ve already been through the consultation process.

Cover photo credit: Donald Wu on Unsplash

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