What are the requirements to set guaranteed hours for part time staff?  What happens if there is not enough work to be done that day?  What happens if the roster changes at the last minute?  When does overtime apply?  These are the questions that fuel retail and wholesale businesses have faced for years, and ACAPMA has assisted countless members with these enquiries, but recent publicised changes to the General Retail Award have added to the confusion, so it is time to review the tips and traps for managing changes to part time hours.

Requirement Recap

It is a requirement when engaging permanent staff, including full time and part time staff, that Guaranteed Hours are agreed and communicated in writing, expressed clearly as the Days that the employee will work and the time that work will start and finish on each of those days.  This is not a stating of the business operating hours, nor is it a stating of the total hours that the employee will work a week, but the specific listing of the Day, Start Time and Finish Time for each of the days the employee will work.  One option for communicating this clearly is to refer to (and attach) a copy of the current roster.

The concept behind these Guaranteed Hours is that there is an agreement between the business and the employee as to when they will work.  This allows the employee to plan their life and the business to plan its coverage.  This has implications on minimum hours and overtime that need to be well understood.

What if the employee turns up for work but there is not enough work for them?  Can I send them home?  Do I still have to pay them?

The employee is promised pay for all of those hours – they have potentially rejected other work to make themselves available  – so while the business can in fact send them home the employee must be paid for all agreed Guaranteed Hours

What if I require the employee to work outside of the Guaranteed Hours?  Does overtime apply?

Yes…but…it can be nuanced.  To better understand the concept it is helpful to think for a moment about a permanent employee who works 38h a week.  If the business requires the employee to work an extra day it is clearly requiring the employee to work MORE than usual and at a time that may be inconvenient to the employees life, so overtime is required.  Where the nuance comes into it is when we look at the difference between a business requiring the employee to work overtime and an agreement being made between the employee and the employer to change the initial agreement that was made.  If there is a genuine agreement to change the Guaranteed Hours of a part time worker then overtime will not apply.


FuelBiz advertises a permanent part time position.  I interview for the position and let them know my availability.  We come to an agreement that, based on my uni and childcare duties, I will work 10:00-14:00 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Those are my Guaranteed Hours.

  • If someone calls in sick and FuelBiz have tried everything to get someone to volunteer to cover the sick persons shift, and they call me and require me to attend work on Friday, which is outside of my Guaranteed Hours, I would receive overtime (I would also retain the ability to say no to the overtime based on family and personal reasons if I really couldn’t do the shift).
  • However, if my uni dates change and I let FuelBiz know that I can now work Fridays if they need me, and a Friday shift or even a sick shift on a Friday turns up they can call me and let me know that there is a shift available if I want it, and if I say yes that would be at ordinary rate not overtime because there had been a genuine agreement to vary the Guaranteed Hours.
  • Similarly if I am ay work on Thursday and the next staff member calls in sick with no notice FuelBix may ask me if it is ok for me to stick around for an hour while they arrange a cover to do the shift, and if I am ok with that and we agree then that is at ordinary rate not overtime because there has been a genuine agreement to vary Guaranteed Hours.

Practically managing change

In a setting where these Standard or Guaranteed Hours may change over time it is also advisable to clarify how these hours may be varied over time, such as the inclusion of a notation into the Letter of Offer (Contract or Confirmation of Employment) to the effect of;  “these standard/guaranteed hours may change over time by mutual agreement, agreement will be taken to have been made through the posting of and acceptance of a roster or other communications as agreed”.

This creates a clear and agreed pathway of agreeing general minor roster changes as variations to the Guaranteed Hours, while also providing an avenue to address last minute changes.

From a practical standpoint it is important to remember;

  • If the business is forcing the change overtime applies
  • If there is agreement for the change overtime does not apply
  • Rosters and other methods of agreement (like additional hours request forms, availability change forms, text messages etc) are employment documents and should be retained for 7 years

So whats going on with the General Retail Award?

Recently changes were made to the General Retail Award to clarify the process for businesses covered by that Award to make last minute changes to guaranteed hours.  These changes do not impact the fuel awards.  The changes were required due to peculiarities in the General Retail Award around notice of change of rosters.

Here to Help

Managing guaranteed hours is a must. ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMAs Employment Department has a series of resources from Quick Reference Guides to template letters to assist you with navigating this process.

ACAPMA members can access these resources and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMA Employment Department Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270 or via employment@acapma.com.au.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members.

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM & IR)