Hardware chain Bunnings Australia has confirmed it is reviewing a rostering policy that “banked” staff hours during quiet periods for use during peak times.
The program, known as ‘bank of hours’, has involved part-time and full-time staff being sent home during quiet periods, only to make up those hours at a busier time instead of getting overtime pay.
Outlined under the retailer’s enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), the practice has been in place for some time, but the ABC reports many staff have complained about the rostering system.
Feeling pressured into working additional shifts and missing out on other commitments, such as school or family, were cited as concerns, according to the ABC.
In a statement provided to SmartCompany, Bunnings Australia confirmed it is reviewing the program, and considering alternatives or modifications.
“The bank of hours system has been in place for quite some time and it does provide benefits for our team members as well as our customers,” said Debbie Poole, Bunnings chief operating officer, in a statement.
“We are currently reviewing the bank of hours system, including 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.”
There is no suggestion that the ‘bank of hours’ program is not legal under the Fair Work Act, but workplace lawyer Peter Vitale says the situation highlights the delicate balancing act businesses play between market demand and the needs of staff.
“Full and part-time staff are contracted to work a certain number of hours … if you make working hours and income unpredictable you won’t attract good staff,” he told SmartCompany.
Vitale says that unlike Bunnings, most small businesses are not able to benefit from an enterprise agreement that sets out working conditions clearly, making rostering difficult.
He says while Bunnings’ program isn’t necessarily common, many small businesses struggle to match labour with demand on any given day.
“You can see [with Bunnings] that this is an easy way for them to ensure they’ve got staff on hand when they need them, and the ability to avoid costs when they don’t,” he says.
While many employers have been applauded for creating flexible working arrangements, the uncertain nature of demand in customer-facing industries like retail can make it difficult for business owners to determine how many staff are required from hour to hour.
Vitale says small employers should prioritise transparency with employees in relation to rostering, while providing as much certainty as possible.
But there is scope to relax the Fair Work Act to make it easier for small businesses to negotiate rostering problems, he contends.
“The modern awards and Fair Work Act are not flexible enough,” Vitale says.
“Allow employers to implement individual flexibility agreements,” he recommends.