Over the past weeks many employers have been struggling to meet the new obligations of the employment legislation which came into force just over a month ago. While the Restaurant Association strongly supports the Government’s aim to eliminate unfair employment practices, the Act has come into force in haste and hasn’t been particularly easy to interpret.

One of the hottest topics for the industry is around agreed hours of work and availability – the part of the legislation that aims to shut down so called “zero hour contracts”.

While your employment agreements do not have to include any agreed hours of work, if any hours of work have been agreed, they need to be recorded in the employment agreement. If no hours of work are agreed, you still need to provide an indication of the arrangements relating to the times the employee is to work. Remember though that you won’t be able to require an employee to work outside of their guaranteed hours if they don’t want to.

So, if you and your employee have agreed hours of work, outline them in their employment agreement, including any or all of the following:

a) the number of guaranteed hours of work
(e.g. the employee will work a minimum of 20 hours per week);
b) the days of the week on which work is to be performed
(e.g. the employee will be required to work on Saturday and Sunday);
c) the start and finish times of work
(e.g. the employee will be required to start at 10am for the lunch service); or
d) any flexibility in the matters referred to in paragraph (b) or (c)
(e.g. the employee will be required to work on Saturday or Sunday, and start at 10am for the lunch service or 5pm for the dinner service).

So far, so confusing…

As the agreed hours form part of the employment agreement they can only be varied by mutual agreement between both the employer and the employee. So, you should provide as much detail as possible in the employment agreement, but still allow for flexibility and fluctuating business needs. For example, if you guarantee a minimum of 30 hours per week, you will be contractually bound to pay the employee for 30 hours a week, even if they work fewer than 30 hours because you are unable to provide the work. Think about whether the employee will be required to work on any particular day or days of the week (i.e Monday to Sunday) and, importantly for our industry, whether the employee’s hours each week will be set out in a roster.

In your employee’s employment agreement you may have, as an example:

• Agreed hours: A minimum of 20 hours per week to be worked on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.
• Rostered hours of work: The business’ trading hours are usually 6am to 3pm Monday to Sunday. Your rostered hours of work each week will be displayed on a weekly roster. It is your responsibility to find out in advance the contents of the roster. You agree to work on the days and times rostered.

Remember, you will need to get the employees agreement if you need them to work more than their agreed hours at any time.

Employment law is a minefield so the Restaurant Association is here to help members to adhere to best practice in relation to staff management. Call us on 0800-737-827 for advice.