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Employment Lawyers Perth
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A certified public accountant worked as an employed professional under an employment agreement. The CPA received around$115,000 in annual income. As a professional, he did not perform work within a specified number of hours a day but worked to achieve the billable hours under his contract.
The CPA produced the employment agreement where it stated that office hours at the company were from 9:00 am until 5:30 pm. However, the same employment agreement provided that the hours of work were flexible and that the CPA may be called to perform work outside the normal office hours.
It was clear that there was no agreement between the CPA and the employer that he would be paid overtime for all the effort performed beyond the normal work hours or that he was to be allowed “time off in lieu” of the hours worked outside the normal work hours.
The CPA first asked for “time off in lieu” at least one year prior to resigning from his employment. Two years after he resigned, he brought this claim for payment of a sum of money equivalent to the “time off in lieu”. The court found that there was no basis for the claim and dismissed it.
From the facts of this case, it can be gleaned that for employed professionals whose employment agreements provide for flexible work hours, there is a need for a separate agreement providing for payment of overtime pay or payment of “time off in lieu” of effort performed beyond the normal hours. Without an agreement for overtime pay or “time off in lieu” then a claim for payment for effort performed beyond normal working hours does not have any basis.
The ruling would have been different had the employee not been a professional and had his employment agreement not provided for flexible working hours. Generally, employer may request employees to work overtime when the overtime effort is reasonable. Overtime work must not pose a risk to the health and safety of the employee and must not encroach on their family responsibilities. The employee must receive payment for overtime at a higher rate than work performed during normal working hours. Also, the employee must be given enough notice before requiring them to work overtime. An employee can refuse to work overtime if the request is unreasonable.
When an employer terminates the employment of a worker for his or her refusal to work overtime, the employee may make an application for unlawful termination or for an adverse action. The employee can claim that consequent to exercising his or her workplace right to refuse to effort overtime, he or she was dismissed from employment. The burden of proving that the request for overtime work was not “unreasonable” rests on the employer. Thus, employers should exercise care and caution in requiring their employees to render overtime work.
To overcome the burden of proving that the request for overtime work is reasonable, the employer must provide evidence that there is a relevant business need for the requirement to effort overtime and the employer must make enquiries on the personal circumstance of their employees to ensure that they will not be prejudiced by a request for overtime work.
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