The complexity associated with ‘getting employment right’ is real in all industries, but particularly in the fuel retail industry. Complexity like a fluid definition of what is an adult depending on their employment status. Or the shiftloading complexity that results in 19 different possible rates that could all apply to a single hour of work worked by a permanent employee depending not on when that hour falls, but instead on when all the other hours the employee works falls, but only on weekdays. But surely we can all agree on when it is Friday right? Unfortunately even what day it is has some complexity that every fuel retailer needs to understand, as one ACAPMA Member found out the hard way recently.
When is Friday?
“The nature of a 24 hour retail service industry means that it is common for workers to work shifts that straddle two days, commencing on a Friday night and concluding on a Saturday morning, for example. But unlike in most industries, there is more complexity, and indeed occasional confusion, about what rate to apply for this work that is done as the week turns into the weekend, and as the weekend turns into the week”, explains ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
“This is because there is a fundamental difference in how the ‘appropriate rate’ is determined for each hour of work, depending on the employment status of the worker”, continued Elisha.
An employee is engaged as either Permanent or Casual as their employment status. Permanent employees can be engaged as Permanent Full Time, or Permanent Part Time.
The rates that apply to an employees work will depend on their status. Generally casual employees receive a premium, typically in the form of a casual loading, for their work to compensate them for the fact that they receive no firm advance commitment to continuing employment and have no entitlement to paid leave, notice or redundancy.
Within the fuel retail industry the complexity starts with the status.
“In fuel retail casual employees do not receive a casual loading, instead they receive a dedicated and stipulated casual rate that applies depending on the day that is worked. There is a particular Weekday Rate and a particular Weekend Rate that applies to the hours worked on those days”, Elisha outlines.
“For casuals work is remunerated on a ‘by-hours’ approach, where there is only one rate that is applicable for each hour of the day for every day. So there is no confusion at all. Any hours worked on a Weekday are at the Weekday Rate, while any hours worked on a Weekend are at the Weekend Rate. Simple”, continues Elisha.
For casual fuel retail workers when a shift straddles a Friday and a Saturday the hours worked on the Friday are paid at the Weekday Rate and the hours that are worked on the Saturday are paid at the Saturday Rate.
The only time that there would be deviation from this very simple calculation is if the employee was in fact working overtime for any of the hours. Overtime applies to all hours worked that are over 10 hours in a day and/or 38 hours in a week.
“But even then the overtime rates are simple and clear. There is a Weekday Overtime Rate and a Weekend Overtime Rate. So a straddle shift is not a problem to understand or to calculate. For a casual worker it is simple to answer the question, when is Friday”, explains Elisha.
“It is when we look at permanent staff that the simplicity becomes confusion”, Elisha notes.
Permanent fuel retail workers are entitled to shiftloading for all shifts that commence after noon on a Weekday. The particular shiftloading that an employee is entitled to is variable and depends on not only when the shift is being worked, but also the work pattern the employee has worked through the rest of the roster.
“A permanent fuel retail worker who commences a shift on a Friday night at 22:00 may be entitled to a shiftloading of 12.5% or 20% or 30% depending on the other shifts that are worked in the roster”, explains Elisha.
“But the complexity around shiftloading doesn’t end with determining which percentage should apply, because there is another element of the shiftloading that applies to permanent employees that results in a requirement to apply the shiftloading rate to the whole of the shift regardless of the hours, or days the work is done”, Elisha continued.
As a result of this shift start requirement, the Friday shiftloaded rate will apply to hours worked on a Saturday, as if it was still Friday.
“So it is Friday from 00:00-23:59 on Friday, but it is also Friday until the shift is finished on Saturday, but only if the fuel retail worker is a permanent employee. If the employee is a casual then it is Friday from 00:00-23:59 on Friday and then it is Saturday”, Elisha states.
So what about Sunday?
If a fuel retail worker works a shift that starts at 22:00 on a Sunday and concludes on Monday morning is it a Sunday Rate for the whole shift?
“Sunday into Monday is where it gets even more complex again. The casual fuel retail workers remain simple, that is to say Sunday is from 00:00-23:59 on Sunday and then it becomes Monday and the Weekend Rate will apply to the Sunday hours and the Weekday Rate will apply to the Monday hours. But for permanent fuel retail staff Sunday straddle shifts are even harder to get right’, explains Elisha.
“The award applies a requirement that all hours worked by a permanent fuel retail worker on a Sunday are to be at the Sunday Rate, and while it specifically requires a ‘by shift’ approach for determining the rate that needs to apply when a Friday straddle shift occurs, it instead requires a ‘by hours’ approach for Sunday. The result is that the hours worked on the Sunday will be at the Sunday Rate and the hours worked on the Monday morning will be at the Monday Night Shift rate’, Elisha adds.
“So while Friday is sometimes Saturday to allow for a ‘by shift’ rate structure for permanent fuel retail workers, Sunday is always just Sunday which requires those same workers to be paid on a ‘by hours’ approach, and for casuals all work is by hours, so Friday is just Friday and Sunday is just Sunday. Clear as mud!”, exclaims Elisha.
This complexity, particularly when both casual an permanent staff are engaged onsite, and the changing demands of a retail environment lead to shifting rosters, can lead to errors and issues, as one ACAPMA Member found out recently.
Case Study: Friday foul up
In this case the business noticed, on review of the rosters, that there appeared to be an issue with the recording of the shifts for some permanent night shift workers who were doing the Friday straddle into Saturday shift.
The site managers had been setting the roster for the employees shift to start at 23:59 on Friday but recording in the payroll system as starting at 00:00 Saturday. This difference of one minute turned out to be significant for the permanent fuel retail workers.
As the shift start time is the key determining factor for the rate to apply to permanent fuel retail workers the start time in this case resulted in the whole shift being classed as a Friday Night Shift and as such higher night shift rate should have applied to all of the hours worked on the Saturday morning.
The business was very concerned that there had been an erroneous underpayment in this situation, however further investigation showed that while this could indeed have been an underpayment issue, the site manager entering the payroll on the Saturday and the roster on the Friday had actually resulted in double payment to the staff impacted, so what could have been an underpayment was instead an overpayment.
Learnings for all businesses
“In this particular case the business was saved by the fact that their new payroll system was linked to the roster system, so those straddle shifts were picked up on both Friday and Saturday, so instead of a minor underpayment there was a significant overpayment, but there are learnings for all operators in this case”, explains Elisha.
“When site managers are doing the rostering it is vital that they understand the requriements of the Award and particularly the different requriements that apply to permanent staff versus casual staff in the fuel retail context. It is these small nuances that can result in 1 minute on a roster turning into an underpayment issue”, Elisha added.
So what should businesses do?
“Clearly training site managers in more than just the running of the site is necessary. The site managers are not ultimately responsible for employment compliance, the business is, but as the vast majority of site managers come to the position from the ranks of the console operators, the business needs to appreciate that they do not necessarily have the experience required to navigate the complexity of general employment compliance, let alone the convoluted and nuanced fuel retail requirements”, explains Elisha.
“So training is a must. What is also advisable is setting some rostering principles that make clear what rate will apply for each employee status for each standard shift. But the biggest tip is to ensure that no shift starts right on midnight. Starting a shift at 23:45 or 00:15 ensures that the business and the employee are clear on which day the shift starts in, and when the employees are permanent fuel retail workers, that makes a huge difference”, concludes Elisha.
Here to Help
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