Australia Working Hours

January 23rd 2024

Australia’s working hours and public holiday landscape in 2024 is complex, shaped by differing state regulations, standard working hours, and a mixture of national and state-specific holidays. The legalities surrounding overtime, breaks, and industry-specific provisions add further layers to this intricate environment. Understanding these elements, from total working days to full-time versus part-time distinctions, is essential for navigating the Australian work scene.

This Article Covers: 

Standard Working Hours in Australia
Overtime Laws and Compensation in Australia
Break and Rest Rights in the Workplace in Australia
Working Days and Public Holidays in 2024 in Australia
Employee Time Tracking Obligations in Australia

Standard Working Hours in Australia

The standard working hours in Australia are typically from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. This schedule includes a lunch break, which usually ranges from 30 to 60 minutes. These hours represent the general full-time work schedule across various sectors in the country.

Full-Time vs Part-Time Hours

  • Full-Time Hours: For full-time employees in Australia, the maximum weekly work hours are set at 38 hours. However, this cap can be extended in certain circumstances if additional hours are deemed reasonable. What constitutes reasonable additional hours depends on several factors, including the nature of the work, the employee’s monthly salary, personal circumstances, and the terms of any applicable industrial instruments like Modern Awards.
  • Part-Time Hours: For part-time employees, the maximum hours are the lesser of 38 hours or the employee’s ordinary hours of work in a week. Part-time work typically involves fewer hours compared to full-time, and the specific hours are often outlined in the employment contract.

Overtime Laws and Compensation in Australia

The overtime laws in Australia are governed by a legal framework that ensures fair and safe working conditions for employees. This framework includes several key components:

  • Fair Work Act 2009: Serving as the cornerstone of employment relations, the Fair Work Act 2009 establishes the National Employment Standards (NES) in Australia. These standards outline the rules for fair work, including the regulation of maximum weekly hours and provisions for overtime. Notably, the Act stipulates that an employer must not require a full-time employee to work more than 38 hours per week unless the additional hours are reasonable (to demonstrate the reasonableness of such a request falls on the employer).
  • Modern Awards and Enterprise Agreements: These legal documents are instrumental in setting pay rates and employment conditions across various industries and job roles. They detail specific information about overtime rates and conditions, with overtime payments typically calculated as a multiple of the employee’s normal hourly pay rate. Common provisions include payment at the time and a half (150%) and double time (200%) rates for overtime hours worked.
  • Employment Contracts: Individual employment contracts offered by the employer itself may have specific terms and conditions related to overtime. While these contracts should comply with the minimum standards established by the Fair Work Act and relevant awards or agreements, they may also offer distinct or additional terms for overtime compensation.
  • Health and Safety Legislation: Health and safety laws in Australia at both federal and state levels play a crucial role in shaping overtime policies. These laws are particularly focused on ensuring that excessive working hours do not compromise an employee’s health and safety.
  • Section 62 of the Fair Work Act 2009: Section 62 of the Fair Work Act 2009 addresses maximum weekly hours and includes provisions about what constitutes reasonable additional hours in Australia. When assessing the reasonableness of overtime, several factors are considered, including the risk to employee health and safety, personal circumstances, workplace needs, compensation for additional hours, and the usual patterns of work in the industry.

Break and Rest Rights in the Workplace in Australia

In Australia, the regulations around breaks and rest periods in the workplace are governed by a combination of national standards and specific industry or employment agreements.

Daily Break Entitlements

In terms of daily breaks, there are generally two categories: rest breaks and meal breaks. Rest breaks, often referred to as tea breaks, are typically about 10 minutes long and give employees a chance to rest briefly during work hours. Meal breaks, which are usually lunch breaks, are commonly between 30 to 60 minutes. The specifics of these breaks, including whether they are paid or unpaid, can depend heavily on the industry, the nature of the work performed, and the employee’s specific work hours. It’s essential for employers to refer to the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement to understand the precise entitlements for their employees.

Weekly Rest Periods

Regarding weekly rest periods, the primary consideration is ensuring that employees have sufficient time to relax before returning to work. This includes adequate breaks between shifts. The Fair Work Act doesn’t specify a mandatory weekly rest period, but many employment agreements and awards will outline minimum requirements for rest between shifts.

Special Provisions for Certain Industries

In Australia, different industries may have specific provisions regarding breaks due to the nature of the work involved. Here’s an overview of some industry-specific break provisions:

  • Healthcare and Emergency Services: In these sectors, where staff often work long or irregular hours, break provisions are typically tailored to ensure that employees have adequate rest due to the demanding nature of their work. This may include longer meal breaks or more frequent short breaks to manage stress and fatigue. The healthcare sector often has detailed provisions for shift workers, including specific rest break requirements for 12-hour shifts.
  • Construction and Manufacturing: These industries usually involve physical labour, so provisions are designed to prevent fatigue and injury. This includes mandatory breaks after a certain number of hours of continuous work and longer meal breaks. Some construction awards specify crib breaks (paid short breaks) to ensure workers have time to rest during long shifts.
  • Hospitality and Retail: Given the customer-facing and often hectic nature of these industries, break provisions may include shorter, more frequent breaks, especially during busy periods. There may also be specific rules during non-standard working hours (late nights or weekends).
  • Transportation and Logistics: In these sectors, for employees working in operating heavy machinery, break provisions are critical for safety. Regulations often dictate mandatory rest breaks and maximum continuous work periods to prevent fatigue-related accidents.
  • Education: Educational staff might have different break provisions, particularly considering the structured nature of the school day. Breaks for educators typically align with class schedules, allowing for necessary rest during the day. Additionally, there might be specific provisions for extra breaks during extended hours, particularly when they’re involved in extracurricular activities or have administrative duties that extend beyond the standard teaching hours. 
  • Professional Services: In traditional corporate environments, break provisions might include standard tea and lunch breaks. However, flexibility in break times can be common, especially in professions where work is project-based or involves extended periods of concentration.

Each of these industry-specific provisions is typically outlined in the respective modern awards or enterprise agreements. It’s important for both employers and employees to be familiar with the specific break and rest period regulations as outlined in the relevant industrial instruments. 

Working Days and Public Holidays in 2024 in Australia

Total Number of Working Days

The total number of working days in Australia in the year 2024 varies slightly depending on the state or territory. This variation is due to the different public holidays observed in each region. Generally, the number of working days ranges from 251 to 252. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Australian Capital Territory: 251 Working Days
  • Northern Territory: 252 Working Days
  • New South Wales: 252 Working Days
  • Queensland: 252 Working Days
  • South Australia: 252 Working Days
  • Tasmania: 252 Working Days
  • Victoria: 251 Working Days
  • Western Australia: 252 Working Days

Weekend Days

For each state and territory in Australia, there are typically 104 weekend days in a year. These are usually Saturdays and Sundays, which are standard days off for most workers.

Common National Public Holidays

There are public holidays that are observed nationwide in Australia. In 2024, these include:

  • New Year’s Day: Monday, 1 January
  • Australia Day: Friday, 26 January
  • Good Friday: Friday, 29 March
  • Easter Monday: Monday, 1 April
  • Anzac Day: Thursday, 25 April
  • Christmas Day: Wednesday, 25 December
  • Boxing Day/Proclamation Day: Thursday, 26 December

Regional Differences in Public Holidays

The states and territories of Australia observe different public holidays, contributing to the variation in the total number of working days. Here is a summary of the regional differences:

Australian Capital Territory
  • Canberra Day: Monday, 11 March
  • Reconciliation Day: Monday, 27 May
  • Labour Day: Monday, 7 October
Northern Territory
  • May Day: Monday, 6 May
  • Picnic Day: Monday, 5 August
New South Wales
  • Bank Holiday: Monday, 5 August (only applicable to banks and certain financial institutions)
  • Labour Day: Monday, 7 October
  • Royal Queensland Show: Wednesday, 14 August (observed in the Brisbane area)
  • Labour Day: Monday, 6 May
South Australia
  • Adelaide Cup: Monday, 11 March
  • Labour Day: Monday, 7 October
  • Eight Hours Day: Monday, 11 March
  • Easter Tuesday: Tuesday, 2 April (Government only)
  • Labour Day: Monday, 11 March
  • Melbourne Cup: Tuesday, 5 November (observed in metropolitan Melbourne)
Western Australia
  • Labour Day: Monday, 4 March
  • Western Australia Day: Monday, 3 June
  • Queen’s Birthday: Monday, 30 September (The date may vary in some regions)

It’s important to note that these dates are specific to the year 2024 and can vary each year. Additionally, some public holidays are specific to certain areas within a state or to certain sectors, like the Bank Holiday in New South Wales or the Melbourne Cup in Victoria. 

For an updated list of public holidays, it’s advisable to refer to the respective state or territory government websites or official publications​, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Employee Time Tracking Obligations in Australia

In Australia, the obligations for employee time tracking are set out under various legal frameworks, each addressing specific aspects of workplace regulation that must be followed.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, Australian employers are required to keep comprehensive and accurate records of employee work hours. These records must include details such as the number of hours worked each day, including overtime, and the start and finish times for overtime hours. These requirements are particularly pertinent for casual or irregular part-time employees who are paid based on the time worked. It’s mandatory to keep these records in a format that’s legible, in English, and accessible for inspection by Fair Work Inspectors. 

Importantly, these records must be retained for seven years. Failure to maintain these records properly can lead to substantial fines, with penalties reaching up to $18,780 per violation for individuals and $93,900 for businesses. If the record-keeping failures are deemed serious, willful, or repetitive, the matter may be taken to court, where fines can be even more significant.

Time Tracking for Overtime and Casual Workers

For overtime and casual workers, time tracking is essential to ensure accurate compensation. The Fair Work Act outlines that overtime is defined differently under each Modern Award and enterprise agreement, typically being an hourly rate of time and a half for the first 2 hours and double time thereafter. For employees not under a Modern Award or enterprise agreement, there is no statutory right to be paid overtime. This underscores the importance of employers being aware of the specific conditions of the awards or agreements that apply to their employees.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for the use of this guide.