Many employers struggle with the idea of keeping rosters. A common concern is putting in a finish time. “How do I know when the employee will need to stop work next week?” is a common refrain I hear. But employers need to put certain information on the roster for employees to view.
I will use the General Retail Industry Award as my example.
The importance of maintaining a roster is threefold. Rosters:
• assist with payment of staff, including overtime;
• manage employee expectations and their hours of expected work;
• ensure compliance with the Award and the Fair Work Act regulations.
What is a roster and what information should it contain?
A roster is a written document that sets out the commencing and ceasing times of employees and the days of work, and how many ordinary hours are to be worked each week. It also sets out the breaks. It is placed in a location available to all employees (clause 28.14).
Do I have to keep rosters?
The employer must retain superseded notices for 12 months. The roster will, on request, be produced for inspection by an authorised person, such as a Fair Work Ombudsman inspector.
Changing the roster
Rosters need to be changed at various times – these are normally the quiet times and busy times. Plan for it. Make your employees aware at the start of the employment that rosters can and will change. Communicate as early as you can that you may need extra hours done to enable rosters to change as smoothly as possible.
Notice to employees
Due to unexpected operational requirements, an employee’s roster for a given day may be changed by mutual agreement with the employee prior to the employee arriving for work. This allows them time to prepare for the change, particularly if the change to the roster means they start later.
Any permanent roster change needs to be provided to the employee in writing with a minimum seven days’ notice. Should the employee disagree with the roster change, they need to be given a minimum of 14 days written notice instead of seven days, during which time there needs to be discussions aimed at resolving the matter, conducted in accordance with the dispute resolution clause of the award (clause 9).
Consequences of changes to rostered hours
Where rostered hours are changed there may be extra entitlements employees earn. Where an employee’s roster is changed with the appropriate notice for a once-only event caused by particular circumstances not constituting an emergency, and the roster reverts to the previous pattern in the following week, then extra work done (i.e. over the rostered hours) by the employee because of the change of roster will be paid at the overtime rate of pay.
Long term changes to rosters – the need to consult
Where an employer proposes to change an employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work, the employer must consult with the employee or employees affected and their representatives, if any, about the proposed change. The employer must:
(i) provide information about the proposed change (for example, information about the nature of the change to the employee’s regular roster or ordinary hours of work and when that change is proposed to commence);
(ii) invite those affected to give their views about the impact of the proposed change (including any impact in relation to their family or caring responsibilities); and
(iii) give consideration to any views about the impact of the proposed change that are given by the affected employee/s.
This requirement to consult does not apply where an employee has irregular, sporadic or unpredictable working hours.
Part time employees
Part time employees agree in writing with their employer about the actual days to be worked and the start and finish times. An employer is required to roster a part-time employee for a minimum of three consecutive hours on any shift.
All time worked in excess of the hours as agreed or varied will be overtime.
A part-time employee’s roster, but not the agreed number of hours, may be altered by the giving of notice in writing of seven days or in the case of an emergency, 48 hours, by the employer to the employee.
The rostered hours of part-time employees may be altered at any time by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee. Ideally, this should be in writing.
The time of taking rest and meal breaks, and the duration of meal breaks, form part of the roster and are subject to the roster provisions of the award.
The failure to keep rosters and the failure to give proper notice and consult with employees can get an employer into hot water. Failure to consult could mean a breach of the award, as will failing to keep rosters.