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Can you direct an employee to change shift arrangements without their Agreement?

A shift worker generally operates under an industry Award or Registered Agreement.

Before you attempt to change arrangements of your shift workers, you should first clarify the types of shifts you can direct them to work and any notice obligations for changes, as set out in your employees Award or Agreement.

Shift workers

Check with the staff members Award or employment agreement to determine what you can and cannot do in relation to shifts and changes to those shifts.

The Award or Agreement will contain provisions relating to shift workers: what types of shifts you can ask them to work and how much notice is required for changes.  This will vary depending on the industry Award (or Agreement) that applies.


Sharna is in the health industry and is covered by the Health Professional and Support Services Award.  She is classed as a shift worker under this award, because she is regularly rostered to work hours that are outside of the “ordinary hours of a day worker”.  The ordinary hours of a day worker are between 6am and 6pm Monday to Friday (with some exceptions for certain businesses).

Under the award, Sharna’s employer must display each roster for the coming fortnights’ shifts at least two weeks before the commencement of the roster period.

Her employer must provide seven days’ notice in the event of a change to the roster, with the exception of absence due to illness or emergency, in which case the roster may be altered at any time to enable the organisation to carry on its functions.

Sharna can request a change to the roster if she gives 7 days’ notice, unless her employer otherwise agrees (except in the case of illness or emergency in which case the roster can be changed at any time).

As a shift worker, Sharna is entitled to be paid an additional amount of 15% of her ordinary rate of pay.

If you wish to change shift arrangements, or if your shift arrangements have been changed without notice to you:

  • Look at your rights under the relevant industry Award or Registered Agreement.
  • Shift work provisions will vary depending on the Award or Agreement that is applicable.

 You can look up your Award here.

More information?

Other Awards

Employment Contract Kits

National Employment Standards