One of Australia’s major retail employers is reviewing a rostering practice that sends staff home during slow periods to make up the hours in peak times.
Hardware retailer Bunnings has been implementing the practice, known as “bank of hours”, across the country and is now reviewing it following a string of staff complaints.
It averages out the rostered hours of part-time and full-time employees over the course of the year, with staff sent home during slow periods.
They then have to make-up the hours in peak times, instead of getting overtime pay.
Affecting family time
The ABC spoke to a number of employees about the “bank of hours” practice, with Bunnings staff saying they felt they had little ground to refuse the additional shifts, were being forced to make extra child care arrangements and spending more money travelling to and from work.
“It’s hard on everyone for different reasons,” one employee who asked not to be identified said.
“Families are a big one, students is another one, it may get to a point at a certain time of year where they owe quite a substantial amount of hours and they have to work when they’d otherwise be at university or doing other things.
“Essentially, it sees me miss out on a lot of family time,” he said.
“I’d much prefer to have the overtime rates that we have lost and standard hours frankly, I don’t think it’s fair.”
The practice of averaging out workers’ hours is legal under the Fair Work Act.
However, with Bunnings’s enterprise agreement up for renewal, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union has called for the system to be abolished.
“Someone who is full-time only works half-time or less and those hours get banked against them, and it usually happens in the cooler months during autumn and winter,” secretary Josh Cullinan said.
“Then when Bunnings is busier in spring, in summer, the management come to that worker and say ‘well you owe us these hours now’,” he said.
Mr Cullinan said workers were potentially missing out on thousands of dollars.
Bunnings reviews practice
In a statement to the ABC, Bunnings’s chief operating officer Debbie Poole said the bank of hours system provided benefits to team members as well as customers but confirmed it was being reviewed.
“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,” she said.
Another union representing Bunnings employees, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), called the bank of hours condition in the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) “a longstanding issue”.
“Since inheriting the banks of hours issue, the SDA has consistently sought to abolish or significantly amend it over six separate EBAs with a view to implementing more appropriate rostering arrangements,” national secretary Gerard Dwyer said.
“While the bank of hours has both supporters and detractors amongst Bunnings employees, EBAs containing the condition have historically been strongly voted up, with the 2015 Bunnings EBA attracting a 93.7 per cent yes vote from staff.”
Mr Dwyer said the EBA contained a range of above-award conditions, and full-time employees were paid a loading 16.5 per cent above the general retail industry award base rate.
A spokeswoman for the Fair Work Commission said agreements in many other companies have provisions to “bank” hours and some modern awards allowed such arrangements.