A Guide to the Minimum Hours for Shift Work

Minimum Hours for Shift Work

Written by

Angela Omari

In Australia, there are so many different ways to work that aren’t your typical 9 to 5.

Shift work is just one way for people to make money. But, you may ask, are there minimum hours for shift work?

If you have found yourself asking this question, well, you are in the right place because this post will give you a clear guide that covers what you need to know in relation to shift work in Australia. 

Read along, as we share in more detail what shift work means and how the minimum hours may apply to you.

What is Shift Work?

Shift work involves rostering employees to work set blocks of time and can be on a full time, part time or casual basis. 

 It’s always important to remember that shift work often requires employers to pay penalty rates. 

In addition, scheduling how many hours employees work is critical. When it comes to the minimum number of hours an employee can work there are specific legal requirements that need to be followed. 

Employees of all types can work on a shift schedule and do the hours of work that are required. However, all employees who do shift work are entitled to work a minimum and maximum number of hours per shift.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shift Work 

The minimum number of hours requirement exists to ensure that employees are not disadvantaged by working a short shift, with a maximum number of hours also applied to ensure the safety and well-being of employees.

Below are a few advantages and advantages of shift work. 



For the employee, they have the convenience to choose work as they please and working hours tend to be lower when completing shift work. 

For the employee, there may be an abnormal routine that can be hard to manage.

For the company, there may be less absenteeism, as the flexibility shift work provides means that workers can be more reliable. 

For the company, scheduling may be difficult for shift work. Certain periods of time may be more popular with employees than others. 

Types of Employment

Before we jump into the ins and outs of shift work, let’s have a quick run-through of the various employment types and how they tie in with shift work in general. 


A full-time employee is someone who works at least 38 hours a week on a permanent basis. Shifts for a full-time employee will usually add up to 38 hours in a week. If an employee works over their weekly hours or outside their usual times of work, they will receive extra pay or overtime rates.


A part-time employee is a person working on a permanent basis for less than 38 hours per week, the terms of the employment contract will determine their working arrangements and the conditions of employment. Part-time employees are entitled to paid leave on a pro-rata basis and must receive adequate notice upon termination.


Casual employees are employed on an irregular basis. Casual employees earn a higher rate of hourly pay (casual loading) compared to full or part-time workers but do not have the same entitlements for their hours of work. For example, they would not be entitled to parental leave, carer’s leave, community service leave, domestic violence leave, or long service leave, just an hourly rate of pay. For example, full-time employees are entitled to paid annual leave and notice upon termination.

What are the Minimum hours per shift, after all?

The minimum number of hours an employee can work varies depending on different awards.

For most industries, the minimum hours for shift work are 3-4 hours. This means that even if you roster an employee for a 2-hour shift, you have to pay them for at least 3 hours of work. 

You can find the specific number of minimum hours for shift work by searching your industry’s applicable Award.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the shortest shift you can legally work? 

For most Australian industries, the minimum hours for shift work are 2-3 hours and are dependent on the initial employment contract and the relevant award.

It may be the case that even if you roster an employee for a 2-hour shift, you have to pay them for at least 3 hours of work. 

What is the minimum number of hours for a casual per shift?

The minimum number of hours that a casual worker will have to work per shift can vary between 2-3 hours depending on the type of work that you are doing and your age. 

What does the “casual” designation mean?

A person is classified as a casual employee if they accept an offer for a job from an employer knowing that there is no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work.

After the amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in late 2020, the definition of what is an Australian casual employee is changed.

The Fair Work Act provides national employment standards to specify the ordinary hours of work. In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman sets out minimum wage.

What are the maximum hours for a shift?

In Australia, the maximum number of ordinary hours a casual employee can work is 12 hours in a day or shift.

A casual employee must have time off after this and there must be time for meal breaks. This averages about 38 hours over a 4-week roster cycle or a 9.5-hour week. This is relevant for all types of work.

What is the minimum time between shifts in Australia?

As per Australian maximum working hours and overtime laws, employees are also entitled to a minimum break of 12 hours between shifts, though this can be diminished to 10 hours with the agreement of the employer and employee.

What are the benefits of a shorter shift?

Shorter shifts can boost productivity and employee morale as they have more time to deal with non-work-related issues.

Similarly, it provides employees with greater flexibility which can be considered an incentive to be a better employee. 

Key takeaways

Shift work, whilst a common schedule of work for many employees can also be highly demanding, especially if there are additional hours of work necessary. When employing shift workers, it’s crucial to pay your employees the minimum amount they are entitled to as per modern awards and provide adequate shift times, as well as times between shifts.

If you have further questions about employing shift workers, it may be worth contacting an employment lawyer for further advice.

Find the perfect lawyer to help your business today!

Get a fixed-fee quote from Australia's largest lawyer marketplace.

Most Popular Articles
You may also like
Recent Articles

Get the latest news

By clicking on 'Sign up to our newsletter' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions


Register for our free live webinar today!

Tax Strategies for Small Business Success

12:00pm AEDT
Thursday 25th July 2024

By clicking on 'Register for webinar' you are agreeing to the Lawpath Terms & Conditions

You may also like

Want to open a pet shop but not sure how? This article teaches

Thank you!

Your registration is confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox for an email with details on how to watch the webinar.