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Scheduled overtime: know your rights

The CWU has received many calls from members in the last few days about Telstra’s Road to Recovery programme, especially the proposal to require employees to work “reasonable additional hours” i.e. scheduled overtime.

The Special E-bulletin of Wednesday 17 August set out the CWU’s views about this proposal in some detail and reported on our meeting with Telstra on the matter. 

Since Wednesday, the union has received confirmation that Telstra has acted on undertakings given at that meeting to stop denial of overtime being used as a performance management “stick”, specifically in circumstances where employees have taken sick leave or family leave. 

Members still want to know though whether they have to perform the scheduled overtime Telstra wants done. The answer is that this will depend on both whether Telstra’s request of you is reasonable and whether your refusal of overtime (if you refuse) is reasonable. 

Section 20 of the current Telstra Enterprise Agreement spells this out, including the factors that have to be taken into account when deciding whether Telstra and its employees are being “reasonable”. It states: 

Matters to be taken into account when considering what’s reasonable include:

i)   The nature of the work performed by the employee;

ii)  Telstra’s business requirements;

iii)  Any risks to the health and safety of the employee;

iv)  The employee’s personal circumstances, including any family or carer responsibilities; and

v)   How much notice the employee if given of the additional hours. 

There are no absolutely hard and fast rules or answers here. But clearly members can refuse to work additional hours if they consider the request is unreasonable. And they can refuse to do any overtime at all if they have a good (“reasonable”) basis for doing so.

Members should note that an employee’s “personal circumstances” is one of the keys to determining what is “reasonable” and this will by definition vary from one employee to another. 

Members wanting advice on this point should contact their state branch. The CWU also urges members to report any circumstances where employees are being coerced into performing scheduled overtime.

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