Minimum working hours per shift in Australia
Updated 26 September 2022
While there is maximum weekly working hours in Australia, there is also minimum working hours per day. It is important you know what they are whether you are an employer or an employee.
Understanding the minimum hours an employer must offer per shift can be confusing for employees. Australian employers must give their workers shifts that satisfy the minimum working hours for their industry. So what are the minimum hours per shift for casual and part-time workers in Australia?
There is no simple answer to this question. In general, it is 2 or 3 hours a shift but it varies depending on the industry you work in. Minimum working hours per shift vary across industries.
You can find the minimum working hours for a shift in the applicable Australian award on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. Once you start checking you will see there is a pattern of an average of 3 hours. But you need to check the relevant award for your industry to find out exactly what the minimum working hour per shift are.
Awards, enterprise agreements and contracts
What if you have an enterprise agreement or employment contract in place? Both of these will also outline the minimum working hours per shift if you are not a full-time employee.
So, which one applies if there is a conflict between the agreements and award for your industry?
The one with the most favourable terms for the employee will apply. For example, if the minimum hours per shift in an industry award or enterprise agreement are more than an employment contract, they will override the contract.
This also works the other way round. Where the terms in an employment contract are more favourable than an enterprise agreement or award, the hours in the contract trumps them.
Allocating less than minimum shift hours
Employers cannot give an employee less hours than minimum shift hours. Why? In a nutshell, because it disadvantages employees.
For example, a typical disadvantage involves an employee travelling for some time to get to work only to be told 'it's not busy, you can go home' two hours into their shift. In this case the employer could still be liable to pay the worker for more than two hours work if the minimum shift hours are three.
There are rules about minimum hours that apply across many industries in Australia.
If an employer allocates an employee less than the minimum shift hours, the employee may claim the wages for the minimum shift hours they should have been allocated, even if they did not work those hours.
Minimum shift hours by industry
The table below table shows the minimum shift hours for some industries and what section of the award you can find them in.
Check your award if you are unsure of the minimum shift hours that apply in your case. You may typically find your minimum shift hours under sections labelled callouts, hours, casual employment, part-time employees or recall allowance.
Some awards have a separate clause for part-time and another for casuals, but they usually have the same minimum number of shift hours.
Building and Construction General On-site Award
Cleaning Services Award 2010
Clerks - Private Sector Award 2010
11.5, 12.4, 27.4
Fast Food Industry Award 2010
Fitness Industry Award 2010
1 hour/3 hours
12.4, 13.4 & 13.5
General Retail Award 2010
Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010
Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010
2 hours, 3 hours
If your industry award is not included in the table, look it up on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.
Do you have questions or comments about minimum shift hours? Leave them below or book a free consultation.