Hours of work

In building and construction, the hours and days of work will vary based on an industrial instrument. No matter what the industrial instrument is, ordinary hours of work may not exceed 38 hours per week, with reasonable overtime.

An industrial instrument may include terms providing for the averaging of hours of work over a specified period.

An employee’s ordinary hours of work will depend on their type of employment, with different ordinary hours for full-time, casual and part-time employees. An employee’s ordinary hours will usually be stated in the ‘hours of work’ clause of their industrial instrument.

Except for shift workers, the ordinary hours of work for the most building and construction workers will specify:

  • total hours per week (e.g. 38 or 36 hours per week)
  • days worked each week (e.g. Monday to Friday inclusive)
  • times worked in each day (e.g. between 7am and 3pm).

For instance, a worker employed under an award may be required to work 38 hours per week, Monday to Friday, from 7.00am to 3.00pm.

Sometimes the ordinary hours of work may be changed:

  • where early starts are required
  • for part-time workers
  • where employees are working in challenging environments such as underground.

Employees working more than 38 ordinary hours per week may be entitled to a rostered day off (RDO).

From 1 July 2020, there is more flexibility under the Building Award about how RDO’s can be taken and banked by employees. Employers should refer to the Building Award to review these changes.


Employees working in the building and construction industry are entitled to receive breaks during their working day. Like other entitlements, breaks will vary depending on your industrial instrument, but usually include:

  • a paid ten minute break in the morning
  • an unpaid thirty minute break for lunch.

If an employee is working overtime they will usually be entitled to at least one more paid break, depending on how long they work. Employees need to check their industrial instrument to find out exactly what they are entitled to.

Example: Specific conditions in an industrial instrument

Hans has to work overtime on a Sunday, and his industrial instrument provides that he must be given a minimum of four hours of work for overtime performed on weekends.

When he turns up to work on the Sunday, there is only two hours of work to perform so he does the work and goes home.

In this situation, Hans will still be paid the overtime rate for four hours.


If an employee works outside of their ordinary hours of work, they may be entitled to receive a higher rate of pay for the extra hours. This is usually called an overtime rate.

Overtime rates vary depending on the time and day on which the overtime is performed, and on the entitlements provided in an industrial instrument. Overtime rates usually increase the longer you work and also on weekends. For example, for four hours of overtime work on a Monday the overtime rate may be:

  • 1.5 times the base or all-purpose rate for the first two hours
  • 2 times the rate for the next two hours.

Overtime on weekends and public holidays will usually be paid at a higher rate and there is usually a minimum amount of hours that you can be paid for working.

An industrial instrument may have specific conditions for overtime performed on weekends, such as minimum hours.

For example, if an employee has to work overtime on a Sunday, and their industrial instrument provides that they must be given four hours of work, but there was only two hours of work to perform, the employee will still be paid the overtime rate for four hours.

An employer may also be responsible for providing other entitlements (such as transport from site) where overtime is expected—for both shift and day workers. Employees need to check their industrial instrument to find out exactly what they are entitled to.

From 1 July 2020, employees under the Building Award may request to take time off instead of being paid overtime for overtime hours worked. For more information, employers and employees should check the Building Award.

Shift workers

As with day workers, shift workers will have maximum ordinary hours of work per week and a regular cycle of work. Shift workers who have fixed-hours arrangements may be eligible for overtime pay if they are required to work more than their ordinary hours.

Awards will usually define shift work and penalties according to the times of the shifts. For example:

  • An afternoon shift may be a shift finishing at or after 9.00pm and at or before 11.00pm.
  • A night shift may be a shift finishing after 11.00pm and at or before 7.00am.
  • A morning shift may be a shift finishing after 12.30pm and at or before 2.00pm.
  • An early afternoon shift may be a shift finishing after 7.00pm and before 9.00pm.

Work required outside of these times is likely to be considered overtime.

From 1 July 2020, a new shift “early morning shift” has been added to the Building Award. 

Shift workers should check their industrial instrument to find out exactly what they are entitled to for ordinary hours of work and overtime.