1 min read

Can someone legally work an 84-hour week?

Q: I have a worker who works 12 hours per day, 7 days a week for up to 9 weeks at a time. The worker hasn’t complained about the workload and is supplied accommodation close to the work area. The worker has adequate rest during their downtime.

I was wondering if there are any legal issues with this workload and would also like to know of any controls I could implement to lower the risk of an incident.

A: You have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for your workers. You must therefore minimise the risk that fatigue may pose to workers as far as reasonably practicable.

An option you may consider for this particular worker is a medical examination to test whether they are fatigued/exhausted as a result of the workload. Alternatively, you can ask the worker to provide a medical certificate from their GP stating that it is safe for them to perform those work hours. In the event that medical evidence suggests fatigue or exhaustion, you can direct the worker to take additional breaks.

Please note that if the worker is covered by an award or registered agreement, your company could be in breach of its obligations to the worker under the award or agreement by not ensuring that sufficient rest breaks are being taken during and in between shifts. Awards and registered agreements provide for a minimum amount of time off between the end of one shift and the start of another. If the worker is covered by an award or agreement, you will also have to keep in mind maximum weekly hours and the spread of hours in calculating any overtime payments you are obligated to make to the worker.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Fatigue for current advice.

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