Your questions answered: Are employees allowed to work more than 38 hours per week?

By Portner Press on February 6th, 2019
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Fair Work Act


We have employees who work more than 38 hours per week, which is not uncommon in our industry. I have read the Fair Work maximum weekly hours information, but it is not clear what the consequences are of having employees work more than 38 hours per week.

Recently, we had a team working 36 hours straight to meet a deadline. They were willing and committed to getting the job done, but I am concerned we should never have allowed this to occur.


The 38-hour work week stated in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) National Employment Standards (NES) is not an absolute cap on the hours an employee can work. An employer is able to require or request an employee to work more than 38 hours per week, so long as the additional hours are reasonable.

A number of factors need to be looked at in order to determine whether the additional hours are reasonable. The main factors are:

  • employees’ health and safety;
  • employees’ family responsibilities;
  • the business’s operational requirements;
  • whether employees are renumerated for the overtime worked;
  • employees’ seniority; and
  • patterns of work in an industry.

Without having further details of the circumstances, we would consider that there is a risk that requiring employees to work 36 hours straight would expose you to a breach of the NES.

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