Bunnings Criticised for “Banking” Employee Hours to Avoid Paying Overtime

Leading hardware retailer, Bunnings Warehouse, has been criticised for sending employees home during quiet periods and “banking” their hours to be called up during busy times. The practice averages out employee’s hours, effectively avoiding overtime payments.

Despite the harsh nature of the practice, according to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), it is perfectly legal.

The practice has spurred a chorus of complaints from Bunnings staff. Those particularly affected are employees with children, who are forced to make last minute childcare arrangements when banked hours are called up.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) asked Bunnings employees how they felt about the practice. Whilst most of them were extremely unhappy about the system, the majority felt as if they had little grounds to refuse the extra shifts.

Even though the practice is technically legal, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union want the system to be scrapped as employees are potentially missing out on thousands in overtime payments.

In response to the mounting complaints, Bunnings chief operating officer, Debbie Poole has announced that, while the system isn’t new, it is now in review.

“We are [seeking] feedback from our team members about the system and looking at alternatives or modifications that ensure our rostering processes benefit our team, customers and the business,” Poole told the ABC.

How to keep your business out of the headlines

While Bunnings’ banking practice technically isn’t illegal, it has certainly put Bunnings in a negative spotlight.

What your employees say about your employment practices can have a huge impact on your reputation. A bad reputation deters quality candidates from applying for jobs with your business and can put contractors off working with you. Sometimes this bad word can even spread to potential clients and customers.

It’s not just about ensuring your practices are lawful, it’s also important that they are practical and fair to staff. Below, we have included some examples of common employment practices that are legal but can be frustrating or overly onerous for employees

1. Strict dress codes

Employers have a right to insist employees wear a particular type of clothing so long as the requirement doesn’t breach anti-discrimination laws.

Those air hostesses tripping up the aisle in their kitten heels, tight pencil skirts and thick lipstick are walking examples of restrictive and arduous dress codes (although arguably these uniforms discriminate based on gender).

Whilst sharp uniforms can make your business look schmick, they can also be very restrictive on staff. Everyone has a different idea of what is revealing or uncomfortable. While some employees might love working in a polo shirt, others may feel uncomfortable with their upper arms exposed. If you do require a uniform or dress code, it’s a really good idea to review it regularly and ask for input from staff for improvements. It’s also a good idea to let staff have a little creativity with how they decide to wear their work clothes.

2. Firing casual employees with little notice

Section 123(1)(b) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) excludes casual employees from the requirement of notice of termination. Therefore, the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement will dictate whether a casual employee is entitled to notice of termination. As many modern awards and enterprise agreements are silent on termination notice, it’s likely that you aren’t required to provide any notice to terminate casual employees (provided they are truly casuals).

Even though you may not be required to provide casual employees with notice of termination, if things aren’t working out, sometimes it’s helpful to let your employee know what is going to happen so that they can start making other arrangements.

Small acts of understanding towards your employees, whether or not they are statutory requirements, often go a long way in promoting your business as honest, fair and reasonable. These traits motivate staff, attract new clientele and help build stronger business bonds.

Want to know more about Employment Law? Looking for an experienced solicitor in Newcastle, Sydney or the Hunter to assist you with your Employment Law matter? Call us on (02) 4929 7002, email us or complete an enquiry form.