Overtime: What you need to know

What governs my working hours?

The Fair Work Act sets out National Employment Standards which are minimum standards covering employment conditions such as the full-time working week being 38 hours.

An Award is an industrial instrument that sets out the minimum conditions that apply to those who work in a particular industry.

There are more than 100 industry or occupation awards that cover the majority of people who work in Australia - the Pharmacy Award covers pharmacists working in the community pharmacy industry and pharmacists working in private hospitals are covered by the Health Professionals and Support Services Award.

The Award pharmacists working in public hospital are covered by varies from state. If you are unsure which Award you are covered by, members can contact the Workplace Advice and Support team at Professionals Australia on WAS@professionalsaustralia.org.au.

An employer is not restricted by law to paying award rates of pay, with many employers paying their employees above award rates. However, employees must be paid at least award pay rates and entitlements for overtime, etc.

Employers can face civil penalties for breaching awards by not paying what their employees are entitled to be paid.

You can download a copy of the Pharmacy Award pay guide here.
You can download a copy of the Health Professionals and Support Services Award pay guide here


What are the ordinary hours of work under the Awards covering pharmacists?

The maximum ordinary hours and employee can work under the Award are 38 hours in a week for both community pharmacists and pharmacists working in private hospitals or 76 ordinary hours per fortnight, unless an employer requests an employee to work reasonable extra hours.

Ordinary hours are continuous, except for rest breaks and meal breaks, and may be worked on any day between 7.00 am and midnight in community pharmacy and between 7.30am and 9.00pm, Monday to Friday and 8.00am and 4.30 pm on Saturday for private hospital pharmacists.

The maximum number of ordinary hours that can be worked on any day is 12 for community pharmacists and 10 hours for private hospital pharmacists.

At the written request of the employee, the employer and the employee may agree to rostering arrangements that are different to those in clause 14 of the Pharmacy Award, however any alternative arrangements agreed must be recorded.

What are my entitlements for working more than 38 hours per week?

For those covered by the Pharmacy Award, an employer must pay an employee at the overtime rate for any hours worked at the direction of the employer:

  • In excess of 38 hours per week (or 76 ordinary hours over 2 consecutive weeks); or
  • In excess of 12 hours on any day; or
  • That are not continuous, except for rest breaks and meal breaks; or
  • Between midnight and 7.00 am; or
  • Outside of the rostering arrangements
An employer must pay an employee for all overtime worked in accordance with the following table:
For overtime worked on Overtime rate % of minimum hourly rate
Monday to Saturday—first 2 hours 150%
Monday to Saturday—after 2 hours 200%
Sunday—all day 200%
Public holiday—all day 250%







The overtime rate specified in column 2 of the table must be applied to the applicable minimum hourly rate for the employee classification as per the Pharmacy Award Pay Guide.

For those covered by the Health Professionals and Support Services Award, overtime is paid in the following circumstances:

When a full-time employee:

  • works in excess of their ordinary hours;
  • works in excess of 10 hours per shift;

When a part-time employee:

  • works in excess of their ordinary hours, except where agreement has been reached
  • works in excess of 10 hours per shift; and/or
  • works in excess of an average of 38 hours per week in a fortnight or 4 week period.

When a casual employee:

  • works in excess of 10 hours per shift; and/or
  • works in excess of 38 hours per week or 76 hours in a fortnight.

When an employee is deprived of part of their break between shifts.

As per the Award, an employee who works overtime shall be paid the following rates for their employment classification:

  • Monday to Saturday—150% of the minimum hourly rate for the first 2 hours and 200% of the minimum hourly rate after 2 hours;
  • Sunday—200% of the minimum hourly rate; and
  • Public Holidays—250% of the minimum hourly rate.

Can working hours in my contract override my Award?

Your contract of employment can make different arrangements for your hours and how overtime will be calculated etc provided that it does not result in lower remuneration than you would be entitled to if the Award stipulated payments were paid.

For example, a contract may provide for an annual salary which includes a clause that provides that it is intended to cover all payments that you would be entitled to under the award. If this ends up leaving you worse off under the contract than if the overtime or other allowance you might be entitled to were paid then you may have a claim for an underpayment.

This is why it is important to keep your own records of working weekends and public holidays, rostered shiftwork, overtime and on-call hours.

Professional Pharmacists Australia can assist you with calculations and requesting additional payment.

Can you refuse to work additional hours?

The Fair Work Act allows employees to refuse to work additional hours if they are unreasonable.

However, there is no legislative definition, chart, or formula, of what constitutes 'reasonable' additional hours. Instead, the Fair Work Act lists a number of factors that must be taken into consideration when determining whether additional hours are “reasonable”.

Whether an employer’s request is reasonable depends on several factors:

  • Any risk to employee health and safety from working the additional hours;
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities;
  • The usual patterns of work in the industry, or the part of an industry, in which the employee works;
  • If the employee is entitled to overtime pay or penalty rates for working the overtime, and/or if they are paid at a higher rate on the understanding that they work some overtime;
  • If the employee was given enough notice that they may have to work overtime;
  • If the overtime falls within the average of ordinary hours;
  • The needs of the business;
  • Any other relevant factors.

The reasonableness of the request or the refusal to work will differ for each member and each circumstance.

I don’t think I’m being fairly compensated for working overtime, what should I do?

If you are concerned that you are being asked to work unreasonable additional hours, or you are not being compensated for the extra hours you are working, you should raise this matter with your supervisor or manager and explain why you believe the additional hours are unreasonable or demonstrate your calculations. If this does not resolve the issue, or if you do not feel comfortable discussing this with your employer, union members can contact the Workplace Advice & Support team for assistance.