The recent Federal Court decision in Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union v Dick Stone Pty Ltd concluded that it was unreasonable to require a worker to work 50 hours per week in his employment at a meat wholesaler.
The worker, from Ghana, was employed in 2016 having arrived in Australia only 3 weeks earlier. He was unfamiliar with Australian Law or employee rights and was provided with an ‘employment form’ and ‘employment commencement pack’ as his ‘Employment Contract’. The Employment Contract described the employee’s ‘ordinary hours’ as 50 hours per week, failed to reference the employee’s entitlement to overtime, and didn’t mention the relevant Award.
Employees are only required to work 38 ordinary hours per week, and any additional hours per week must be reasonable.
The employee started his shifts at 2 am in an artificially chilled environment, he was often tired and exhausted, working with knives and machinery. He had suffered four injuries over three years of employment. He did not complain about working 50 hours a week before the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union became involved and the Union noted that the employee was not given a copy of the Fair Work Statement before starting. He also had ‘no idea’ of his Award entitlements as found by Justice Katzmann.
Justice Katzmann considered several deficiencies in the Employment Contract including the lack of clarity regarding remuneration.
Dick Stone was found to have breached the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and sections of the Meat Industry Award 2010, for unreasonably requiring its employee to work in excess of 38 hours a week.
On 28 October 2022, Justice Katzmann ruled it was unreasonable to require the employee to perform an extra 12 hours per week. J Katzmann ordered that penalties totaling $83,000 for contravention of various provisions of the Fair Work Act be paid by the employer.
It is important for Employers to:
- know which Award applies to their business and industry;
- know the correct rate of pay to pay staff for ordinary hours of work, and overtime;
- establish what additional hours are reasonable for your employees, having regard to various matters such as health and safety, and the employee’s responsibilities;
- include routine regular risk assessments of the hours worked by the employees;
- ensure that your employees are given a copy of the Fair Work Statement upon their commencement; and
- finally, ensure the terms of your employment contract do not conflict with or are inconsistent with the terms of any applicable award or national employment standards.
As an Employer, it is best to consider the reasonable nature of additional hours as per the Fair Work Act.
Our Workplace Team can assist if you need advice regarding understanding your industry Award and employment contracts for your business. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Workplace Law Team at Clifford Gouldson Lawyers.
 Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union v Dick Stone Pty Ltd (No 2)  FCA 1263