January 1, 2020

Minimum working hours per shift in Australia

Minimum working hours per shift in Australia

Updated 3 January 2021

In Australia, employers must give their workers shifts that satisfy the minimum working hour shifts for their industry. 

And, you can find minimum working hours for a shift in the applicable Australian award. 

Minimum shift hours will vary across industries. 

However, when you look at a few Australian awards, you'll see a pattern and that around 3 hours is a good average. 

But, you need to check your applicable award, so don't assume its 3 hours automatically.

You can find your award on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.  

Minimum hours are in awards, enterprise agreements and contracts

In addition to awards, minimum shift hours can also be outlined in an enterprise agreement or an employment contract. 

So which applies if there's a conflict ?

The award, enterprise agreement or employment contract?

More favourable employee terms will always apply for the employee and I'll explain this below. 

Favourable terms trump

More favourable employee terms for minimum shift hours in an applicable award or enterprise agreement and these minimums will always apply over those in an employment contract.

And vice versa; if the employment contract has more favourable terms, those will apply over the minimums in an award or enterprise agreement.

Allocating below minimum shift hours

Giving employees less than the minimum shift hours is something that employers cannot do. 


In a nutshell - because it disadvantages employees. 

The typical disadvantage, involves an employee travelling for some time only to be told 'it's not busy, you can go home' 2 hours into their shift.

Now, there are several rules 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 that they should have been allocated, even if they did not work those hours.

Minimum shift hours by industry

Below I have prepared a table showing the minimum shift hours for some industries.

You should 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 call-outs, hours, casual employment, part-time employees or recall allowance. 

Some awards will have a separate clause for part-time and another for casuals, but they usually have the same minimum number of shift hours.



Award section(s)

Building and Construction General On-site Award

3 hours

34.2 (o)

Cleaning Services Award 2010

2 hours


Clerks - Private Sector Award 2010

3 hours

11.5, 12.4, 27.4

Fast Food Industry Award 2010

3 hours

12.2, 12.7

Fitness Industry Award 2010

1 hour/3 hours

12.4, 13.4 & 13.5

General Retail Award 2010

3 hours

12.5, 20.10

Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010

3 hours

12.5, 13.6

Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010

2 hours, 3 hours

10.4, 28.4

You can get access to your Award on the Fair Work Ombudsman's website.

Do you have questions or comments about minimum shift hours? Be sure to leave them below. 

About the author 

Vivian Michael

As founder and lawyer at Michael Law Group, Vivian advises Australia's top entrepreneurs on business and employment matters. Clients benefit from Vivian's commercially focussed and pragmatic legal advice, business experience, and commitment to deliver the best quality business legal services to her clients.

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