Gen United

Let’s talk about rosters. Or – more importantly – about ‘roster justice’

In this blog we’ll be covering:
👉 WHY are there rules around rostering?
👉 WHAT are the rules around rostering?
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester in Glee with subtitle text that reads 'I am going to create a roster that is so unpredictable

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4 minutes

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If you’ve ever worked in hospitality or retail, we all know more than we’d like to about roster fails:

  • reduced shifts

  • rostered on when you’ve specifically requested to be rostered off 

  • last-minute roster changes 

  • not enough hours 

  • too many hours 

  • being rostered ‘on call’ (WTF!?!) 

  • or rostered with no start or end times 

If you’re starting out at a job, you might think the roster is a bit annoying and feel like you don’t want to let your boss or co-workers down. But the problem is, if rostering at your workplace is continually chaotic or unfair, the implications can be serious.

Unpredictable shifts interfere with normal social activities and work-life balance, and if you feel you have no control over the hours you work, it can affect your mental health (not in a good way!). In general, it’s just harder to budget without a reliable income and the cost-of-living pinch becomes harder than it already is.

A World Health Organisation study identified unreliable hours and lack of control over work as 2 harms from a total of 10 ‘psychosocial hazards’ that affect workers’ mental health detrimentally.

There are rules around rostering that your employer must follow to comply with the award or agreement that you’re employed under to ensure you’re not harmed by your working conditions.

For example, if you work at a restaurant, did you know…?

Your employer must give you 7-days notice of a roster change 

Yes! Unless you have both agreed on a roster change, your employer must tell you a week before that your roster is changing. 

Your full name and hours must be on the roster 

To be valid, a roster must contain your surname and initials, a start time AND AN END TIME. 

The maximum time allowed for a shift is 11.5 hrs 

You cannot be rostered on for more than 11.5 hours. And if you’re under 18, the maximum is 10 hrs. You cannot be rostered for more than 3 days in a row of 10-hour shifts. If you’re on a split shift, it must not cover more than 12 hours. 

There are also minimum hours *and pay* for any shift 

If you’re full-time, the minimum shift you can be called in for is 6 hrs. If you’re part-time, it’s 3 hrs, and if you’re casual it’s 2 hrs. This is also the minimum you can be paid for a shift, even if you’re not required to finish the whole shift. 

Find more info on this award and others here

What employers mean when they say they want ‘flexibility’ 

Full control over rosters, last-minute shift changes and cancellations, and less job security.

What workers mean by ‘flexibility’ 

Predictable shifts so they can organise their lives outside work, depend on a regular income, and be able to request changes at short notice when problems arise. 

What is roster justice?

This year, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is arguing that workers should be able to bring unfair rostering disputes to the Fair Work Commission (something that is currently not covered by the regulator). They’re also calling for a 28-day notice requirement for changes to regular rosters.  

In many workplaces, rosters are done monthly, so it’s not unreasonable to expect a month’s notice. It doesn’t stop people making changes by mutual agreement, if they need or want to. But it does give employees the right to have at least some control over the hours they work. 

Recent Closing Loopholes legislation means you also have a right to become permanent after 6 months of regular shifts. Another good reason to join with your co-workers and demand a regular roster. 

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