Employer Insights

How to Manage Your Temps' Hours and Keep Costs Down

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read

Often the primary reason a hiring manager will request casual staff is to deal with an overload of work, where there are tight and non negotiable deadlines.  It is not uncommon for hiring managers to expect the temporary employee to put in long hours to meet these deadlines, but many of these hiring managers are also unaware that long hours can equal overtime penalties and increased costs. 

Many casual employees are protected by a relevant modern award.  Modern awards typically define ordinary hours, terms of engagement for casual staff and how overtime is calculated.  I wish I could say that the awards are straight forward, but each one is unique, and there can be significant differences between them. However, the predominant award relevant to administrative and clerical staff is the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2010.  So this is the one I am going to use to help you understand how best to manage your temporary employees' hours.

Ordinary hours

In this award, ordinary hours are defined as:

  • Monday – Friday between 7am and 7pm; Saturday between 7am and 12.30pm
  • Not more than 10 hours per day
  • Maximum of 38 hours per week

(note: ordinary hours worked on a Saturday incur a 25% penalty on top of the base award rate) So, if your temp is working within those hours/requirements, then you are not going to incur any overtime charges. If your temp works after 7pm OR more than 10 hours in any one day AND/OR more than 38 hours in the week, then overtime rates are likely to apply. Overtime for this award is calculated at time and a half for the first two hours and double time thereafter.

Are all employees covered by a modern award?

Just to confuse you even further, no, not all employees are covered by an award.  Roles that have traditionally not been covered by an award do not incur overtime rates.  Generally, professional accountants, sales & marketing and IT professionals are not covered by an award.  However, there are some industry awards (as opposed to occupational awards) that DO cover professional employees, so it is important that you understand what award applies to the casual employee you are hiring.

How to manage your temp costs

  1. Ensure that your recruitment agency specifies which award applies to the casual employee(s) hired.
  2. Ask for clarification on what is defined as ordinary hours for that award.
  3. If you do not require the temp to work outside the defined ordinary hours, specify this to the recruiter. You are within your rights to demand that the temp not work overtime.
  4. If you DO require the temp to work hours which will exceed ordinary hours, you need to be prepared to pay the appropriate overtime rate.

One easy way of managing temp hours is to ensure that the casual employee takes a lunch break.  They are entitled to a minimum 30 minute break after 5 hours of working, so request that the temp takes the break.  This will help keep your overall hours down AND ensure that the temp is more productive for having taken a break! Employing casual staff can be expensive, but with careful management and transparency from your recruiter regarding award conditions, you can control costs AND meet your deadlines within budget.