Hardware superstore Bunnings Warehouse has been criticised for its policy of “banking” their workers’ hours, in a bid to keep staff in-store during peak periods.
According to a report by ABC News, Bunnings sends workers home during quiet periods and banks their hours to be used during busier times – averaging out the hours over the rostering period.
The idea is to make sure there are plenty of staff available when there is high customer demand, and less for quieter times – but the result of the policy is that Bunnings gets out of paying overtime rates.
“Someone who is full-time only works half-time or less and those hours get banked against them, and it usually happens in the cooler months during autumn and winter,” Retail and Fast Food Workers Union secretary Josh Cullinan told ABC News.
“Then when Bunnings is busier in spring, in summer, the management comes to that worker and say ‘well you owe us these hours now’.”
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, workers can only be stood down as a result of factors beyond their control, such as industrial action, natural disaster or equipment failures.
“Employees can’t be stood down just because there is not enough work,” the agency’s website states.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said Bunnings was stretching the rules.
“It really is a bit cheeky to stand down your workers just because business is slow, and then ask them to come back and work those hours during busy periods,” he said.
“You can’t tell workers to go home on a whim, and then tell them they’ll have to make up the hours on another day that suits the business – that’s not fair – and it really is just a trick to get out of paying proper penalty rates and overtime.”
Amid a growing number of complaints by workers, Bunnings says it is now reviewing the practice.
“The bank of hours system has been in place for quite some time and it does provide benefits for our team members as well as our customers,” Bunnings Chief Operating Officer Debbie Poole said.
“We are currently reviewing the bank of hours system, including seeking feedback from our team members about the system and looking at alternatives or modifications that ensure our rostering processes benefit our team, customers and the business.”
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