Why navigating shift work in awards can be confusing

Questions about shift work have been a hot topic amongst businesses lately, with CCIWA’s employee relations advice centre fielding a number of calls.

Senior Employee Relations Adviser Aaron Dockery says the rise in inquiries reflects the upward trend of industries that use shift workers such as mining and construction, although calls from the disabilities services, manufacturing and hospitality sectors are also common.

Confusion can also occur because businesses are juggling multiple awards.

“The definition may vary between awards, but a shift worker is generally an employee who works shifts that are defined as per the relevant industrial instrument and receive a shift loading to compensate them for working unsociable hours,” he says.

“The definition for a shift worker and a continuous shift worker may also vary between awards but generally speaking, being classified as one or the other may attract different penalties.

“Continuous shift workers also potentially have access to additional annual leave.”

Dockery says how various awards define a continuous shift worker differently is one of the most important things to look out for is.

“The definitions are sometimes very prescriptive, whereas others have the same wording as the national employment standards,” he says.

“The mining award, for example, outlines that a continuous shift worker is an employee engaged in a continuous process who is rostered to work regularly on Sundays and public holidays.”

While it is possible to pay shift workers an all-inclusive salary in lieu of hourly rates and/or penalties, Dockery warns that properly worded contract of employment is crucial.

“Either scenario may be able to work depending on the circumstances but we recommend employers get legal advice from CCIWA’s workplace consulting team regarding these matters.”

While the majority of employers are trying to do the right thing, mistakes may occur with interpretation of award and agreement terms.

“This is particularly when considering the interaction between multiple loadings, allowances, penalties and the like,” he says.

“We recommend members contact CCIWA’s employee relations advice centre with assistance on these matters.”

► Free employee relations advice is just a phone call away for most CCIWA Members. To find out more visit here.

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