Can we change work hours during the holiday season?

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Employee leave

Source: haradvanceprofessional.com.au

The holiday season can throw up a variety of employee leave issues, including shift swaps and changed working hours.

A question recently raised with our Workplace Relations team was:

Question: We have one employee who works Monday to Thursday 9.5 hours a day and another employee who works Tuesday to Friday 9.5 hours a day. One employee is taking leave in December and the other is taking leave in January.

Their manager would like them to cover for each other. They are covered under the Manufacturing & Associated Industries Award. If they both worked the additional day, would they have to be paid overtime for the day as they would be working more than 38hrs per week? With their agreement can their hours be changed to 7.6 per day Monday to Friday to ensure effective coverage and reduce the chance of fatigue?

Answer: If an employer wants to change an employee’s ordinary hours of work then they must consult with the employee about the proposed change in line with the relevant award. In this case, it is clause 41.2 of the Manufacturing & Associated Industries Award.

This includes informing the employee of the proposed changes, inviting them to give their views about the changes and taking those views into consideration.

If the employee has an employment contract that states specific days and hours, then that needs to be taken into consideration.

Employee fatigue

Minimising employee fatigue is a real consideration. This could occur from information overload and work overload compounded by intense time pressures, lack of control over work and a level of frustration with constraints that raises the risk of stress, burnout, long-term sick leave and workers compensation claims.

Information overload can combine with other pressures to impair a person’s work performance, undermining their capacity to make decisions, work safely, or maintain a reasonable degree of effectiveness and efficiency. The result can be dramatic in terms of lost productivity and increased risk of oversights, errors and accidents.

From all these points of view, it makes good business sense to manage the risks of information or work overload and fatigue.

Change ordinary hours by agreement

If the proposed new hours are a clear contradiction of the contracted hours, then the contract must be amended by agreement even if it is short term.

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