What You Need to Know About Full-Time Working Hours

Updated 13 January 2023

When you're looking for a job, you can choose to work in either part-time or full-time employment. People who work full-time hours often receive more benefits, though the benefits you could receive depend on many different factors, including what company you work for and what state or territory you work in. Understanding these benefits as well as the differences between full and part-time work can help you decide which is best for your situation. In this article, we discuss what full-time hours mean and the benefits of working full time.

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What are full-time working hours in Australia?

Different countries have different full-time employment definitions. In Australia, a full-time employee:

  • Works for an average of 38 hours each week

  • Is on a fixed-term contract or is a permanent employee

While this is the standard guideline, full-time hours in Australia may vary. Typically, they must work at least 35 hours a week to be considered full time. Anything less no longer fits Australia's definition of full-time work.

Part-time and casual work in Australia

In Australia, if you work for less than an average of 38 hours a week, you may be considered a part-time or casual employee. A part-time worker is someone who:

  • Works less than 35 hours a week

  • Works regular hours each week

  • Is on a fixed-term contract or is a permanent employee

The minimum hours for part-time jobs varies depending on the industry, the company and the employee. Some industries set minimum working hours anywhere from two to eight hours a week. For example, shift work for school bus drivers has a minimum of two hours.

In the restaurant industry, you may be able to ask for more guaranteed hours if you work part time, but you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. The employer cannot refuse unless there are reasonable grounds to do so.

If you have permanent part-time hours, then your employer must inform you of the terms in advance. This includes how long you work each day and how many hours you work each week.

If your employer does not offer a firm commitment in advance, you may be considered a casual worker rather than a part-time employee. In this case, there is no guarantee about the duration of the employment or the days or hours you work. A casual employee is someone who:

  • Works irregular hours

  • Does not have guaranteed working hours

  • Does not get paid annual leave or sick leave

  • Can usually end employment without notice, depending on their employment agreement or contract

Casual work is unpredictable and therefore has a higher pay rate compared to full-time and part-time work due to the lack of benefits.

Related: Breaking into Permanent Work with a Contract Background

Benefits of working in a full-time job

There are many benefits to working in a full-time job, but they can vary depending on the employer, the size of the company and the industry. The state or territory in which you work also determines some of the benefits that you get. Below are some common benefits available for full-time employees:

  • Retirement benefits

  • Health insurance

  • Sick and carer's leave

  • Compassionate leave

  • Family and domestic violence leave

  • Annual leave

  • Long service leave

  • Community service leave

  • Parental leave

  • Public holidays

Retirement benefits

As a full-time employee, you have a right to make superannuation contributions. You pay these out to a superannuation fund nominated by your employer, and your employer must pay superannuation guarantees. The more you earn and contribute yourself, the higher the employer contribution can be. These investments boost your retirement funds, so they are extremely beneficial in the long run.

Health insurance

By working full time, you may receive a health allowance that can help you pay for private insurance. It may cover dental and vision care as well as hospital stays. You could also pay for health insurance premiums at a discounted rate if your employer has negotiated a better rate on behalf of their employees. The benefits you get depend on your employer, and they are not guaranteed.

Sick and carer's leave

As a full-time employee, you can receive different types of time off from work. This type of leave enables you to take time off to become a caregiver. It allows you to take care of immediate family members, which includes your spouse or partner, children, parents and grandparents. You can also use it to deal with personal illnesses and family emergencies.

As a full-time employee, you can take 10 days off for paid leave of this kind. It accumulates and can carry over to the next year. You can also take two extra days off as unpaid leave if you have no paid leave left.

Compassionate leave

This leave, also called bereavement leave, allows you to take time off work if a family member dies. It also covers the life-threatening injury or illness of a loved one. It usually lasts for a total of two days. If you work full time, your employer pays you during this leave.

Family and domestic violence leave

If you are in full-time employment, you can have five days of unpaid leave to deal with domestic violence issues. Some employers may choose to provide paid leave for family and domestic violence instead, so it is important to review your contract and workplace policies.

Annual leave

Annual leave, also called holiday pay, is time off from work that you receive with full pay. Employers calculate your annual leave period based on your regular, full-time working hours. If you work more hours, then you can have a longer annual leave. It is usually around four weeks of allowance per year, and your unused leave can roll over to the next year.

People with part-time working hours in Australia are also entitled to annual leave, but it is on a pro-rata basis according to how many hours they work.

Long service leave

When you work for one employer for a long period, you earn a long service leave. Your particular state or territory affects when you can have this leave and what its duration will be. The industry you work in may also determine if you get this time off.

Community service leave

This time off enables you to engage in jury duty services. You can also use this time to participate in voluntary emergency management tasks, such as helping after a natural disaster. There is not a strict limit on the amount of time you can take off for community service leave, though the time is unpaid, except in the case of jury duty.

Parental leave

Parental leave covers both fathers and mothers. You can take this time off when you or your spouse gives birth or adopts a child. As a full-time employee, you can get up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. You also have the option of asking for an extra 12 months of time off from work. If you intend to adopt, you get two more days of unpaid leave to deal with relevant interviews. You typically must have worked for an employer for at least one year before getting access to this time off.

Employees can also get up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave if they are the primary caregiver of the newborn or adopted child. You can earn this while still being entitled to unpaid parental leave.

Public Holidays

You can enjoy public holidays away from work. Different Australian states and territories observe different holidays, so your entitlements vary depending on the location where you work. If your hours would typically fall on a holiday, you are paid for that time off.

Flexible working hours

As a full-time worker, you may be able to ask your employer to change your working arrangements. If you are close to retirement, a caregiver or a parent to a small child, it is a more common request. Generally, you must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months. You may be able to ask for changes in the following:

  • The location where you work

  • When you start and finish work each day

  • How you work, such as by job sharing

Maximum weekly hours of work

One reason it's important to understand the difference between full and part-time working hours is to protect your rights as a worker. You have a right to fair working hours. Your full-time work hours are generally 38 hours a week, although an employer may ask you to do more. As a full-time employee, you only have to work the hours as set out in the employment agreement.

You should consider the average weekly working hours over the long term. If an employer asks you to work outside the ordinary and reasonable period, you may claim the following:

  • Overtime

  • Penalty rates

  • Extra compensation

Related: What Is the Difference Between Casual and Part-Time Work?

Dignified termination of employment

Working full-time hours obligates your employer to provide you with a dignified termination. The only exception is when you commit what employers consider gross misconduct. Otherwise, your employer has to give you a written notice that specifies your termination date. You can either work through the notice period or get paid to leave earlier. You may be able to claim bonuses, loadings, overtime or penalties. You may also be able to get redundancy pay. The amount you get depends on how long you have worked continuously for your employer.

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