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Credit: Behnam Norouzi

Employees must consent to holiday shifts

Employers have been reminded that they cannot roster their workers on public holidays without their consent. 

This was made clear in a recent landmark court ruling that applies to all workplaces, regardless of existing contracts or agreements.

In finding that Operations Services breached the Fair Work Act by requiring miners to work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the ruling sets a precedent for all employers to follow. It mandates that workers must be asked whether they would like to work on public holidays, giving them the right to choose. 

The ruling is a significant step towards protecting the rights of workers. It ensures they are not unfairly coerced into working on public holidays without consent. 

Employers are reminded that they must comply with the Fair Work Act and respect their workers’ right to decide how they are rostered. The decision is expected to have far-reaching implications, as it will create better working conditions for all employees.

What happened?

In March 2022, a decision by the Federal Court of Australia ruled that employers cannot automatically roster employees to work on public holidays without their consent. The court found that such a practice is a breach of the Fair Work Act and the National Employment Standards (NES). 

The ruling means that employers must now take several steps to comply with the law, including issuing public holiday rosters well in advance, providing valid reasons for requiring employees to work and giving employees the option to accept or reject the roster.

Deepesh Banerji, Chief Product Officer at Deputy, provides insights on how technology can help businesses comply with the recent Australian Federal Court ruling. The ruling requires employers to seek consent from their workers before rostering them to work on public holidays instead of assuming they accept it automatically.

Deepesh Banerji suggests that current technology can help employers and employees comply with the court’s ruling and build trust between them.

“The declaration by the Australian Federal Court last week requires employers to ask workers if they want to work public holidays and cannot automatically roster their work. This welcome change will positively impact shift workers across a range of industries — from aged care to hospitality to retail — delivering more flexibility and fairness, resulting in more engaged teams.

“Many businesses formerly assumed that employees accept working on public holidays when they join operations that work 24/7, and labour shortages have exacerbated the issue. Ahead of the ANZAC Day public holiday, we look forward to seeing more shift workers get the option to spend time with their loved ones — something the white-collar workforce has long been able to do.”

What employers need to know

To comply with the law, employers should not automatically roster employees for public holidays. Instead, they need to take certain steps, including issuing public holiday rosters well in advance and providing valid reasons for requiring employees to work. Employers must also inform employees that they can reject or accept the roster and assess whether any refusals are reasonable or not. 

If refusals are reasonable, employers should find substitutes and follow the request process again. Employers should review their contracts to ensure compliance with the law and cannot require employees to agree to work on public holidays in advance.

Employers need a valid reason for requiring staff to work on public holidays and should consider factors such as the nature of their workplace and operational requirements, penalty rates, overtime, and policies or contracts regarding public holiday work. 

Employers who fail to follow the proper request process for public holiday work may face penalties under the NES, which range from AUD 16,500 to AUD 82,500 for individuals and AUD 165,000 to AUD 825,000 for corporations, depending on the severity of the violation.

The Shift Confirmation feature offered by Deputy can help employers comply with the court’s ruling. More here.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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