For many Australians, unpaid overtime is a normal part of their job. You may feel the pressure to stay back at work outside normal working hours to complete tasks or in order to be considered for a promotion.
According to the Australia Institute, Australians donate $72 billion in unpaid overtime to their employers each year. It is often difficult to overcome the culturally entrenched pressure to work overtime. However, you should know your legal rights as an employee in these situations.
When do overtime rates apply?
You should check your Award or Enterprise Agreement to see when overtime rates apply. Overtime rates generally apply if you work longer hours than your ordinary working period or if you work outside the standard working hours.
Can my employer ask me to work overtime?
Your employer can ask you to work back, so long as the duration and time of the requested overtime is reasonable. Remember that what is reasonable is an objective standard.
When asking you to work overtime, your employer must give you a reasonable amount of notice.
Your employer also needs to consider:
- Potential risks to your health and safety from working extra hours.
- The needs of the workplace.
- What are the usual work hours for the industry.
- Whether you have stated that you’re unable to work overtime.
- Your personal situation, other known responsibilities that you as the employee have and your health.
- Whether you are paid at a higher rate than the standard Award or Enterprise Agreement rate on the understanding that you work some overtime.
- Whether you are entitled to overtime rates under an Award or Enterprise Agreement.
Remember, if a request to work overtime is unreasonable, then you don’t have to accept. Your employer cannot legally penalise you for refusing an unreasonable request to work overtime.
The expectations that a workplace sets around overtime can be tricky to navigate if they are implied rather than expressly stated. It is best for both you and your employer to clearly establish these expectations as early into a new job as possible, preferably by writing them into your contract.
You can also contact Fair Work Australia for more information and support.