Full time hours in Australia: what it means for you

Full time hours in Australia: what it means for you
SEEK content teamupdated on 29 February, 2024

More than 9.5 million people work full-time hours in Australia – around three-quarters of the nation’s working population. With so much of Australia’s labour force employed full time, it’s essential for workers to be aware of their rights and entitlements.

Full-time employment means different things in different parts of the world. In Australia, you get certain entitlements when you work full-time hours, no matter your industry or role. In this article we cover the meaning of full time working hours, how overtime works, your annual leave, daily rest breaks and more. 

What does full time mean? 

Full-time work is defined as 35 to 38 hours per week, though an employer may ask for more. Full time refers only to the amount of hours worked, not the type of contract, which can be: permanent, fixed term, freelance or contract. Someone who works full-time can be on a temporary freelance or fixed-term contract or on a permanent full-time contract. These types of employment have different entitlements – permanent is considered the most secure type of employment. 

Other types of work classifications in Australia include part time and casual. Part time is typically defined as having less than 35 hours per week of guaranteed work, while casual work has no guaranteed weekly hours and is usually shift work. 

What are the legal full-time working hours in Australia? 

The legal definition of full time depends on the award, role and the employee contract. However in general, the legal full-time hours in Australia means 35 to 40 hours per week, plus any reasonable overtime. Full-time hours aren’t the same everywhere in the world. For example, full-time hours in Singapore can mean up to 44 hours a week. 

Do I get overtime pay when I exceed my full time working hours? 

Even if you’re full time, your employer can legally ask you to work overtime. If the overtime request is unreasonable, you can decline it. For overtime to be legal in Australia, it must:

  • be reasonable, 
  • not impose on your health or safety, and 
  • consider your personal commitments, such as family responsibilities. 

Do you get paid for overtime? Whether your employer is required to pay overtime depends on your industry, award and what is outlined in your contract. For example, if you work in construction, you are paid overtime if you’ve worked outside of your maximum number of ordinary hours or have worked outside of your ordinary schedule – for example, working on the weekend if you usually work Monday to Friday. In some instances, your employer may offer ‘time in lieu’ instead of overtime pay, where you can take paid time off equivalent to the additional hours worked. 

Salaried workers in a corporate environment typically don’t receive any overtime pay. It depends on what is outlined in their employment contract. 

How to calculate overtime

To calculate overtime, multiply your hourly rate by 1.5. This is how much you will receive per hour of overtime you complete. Here is the formula:

Hourly rate x 1.5 = overtime hourly rate

You can then use your overtime hourly rate to calculate how much pay you can expect to receive. For example, if your hourly rate is $25 an hour, your overtime hourly rate would be $37.50. If you worked five hours overtime, you would receive an additional $177.50 in your pay.

Tax on overtime

Yes, overtime is taxed. Your overtime is taxed at the same rate as your standard hourly rate, but may be higher if overtime puts you into the next income tax bracket. It’s best to speak with your payroll team at your workplace for specific information about what tax you pay on any overtime you work. 

Superannuation on overtime

You typically don’t get paid super on top of overtime payments. However if preferred, you can contribute your overtime payments to your fund. Speak to your HR or accounts team if this is something they can help with. 

Rest days and break entitlements in Australia

In Australia, employees are entitled to rest days and breaks for health and safety reasons. Not being allowed to take your breaks in the workplace is a legal offence and something you should raise with your employer or Fair Work Australia. 

Rest day entitlements for full-time workers in Australia

Full-time workers in Australia can’t be required to work more than their mandated 38 hours (40 hours for some awards), unless overtime is reasonable. As a full-time worker, you cannot work more than 10 consecutive days. For example, if you were rostered on for 11 days in a row, your employer would be breaking workplace law. Your days off may fall on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday), or they may not. It depends on your individual work contract agreement.

If you’re asked to work on a typical rest day, you may be granted a day in lieu in place of monetary compensation. A day in lieu is a day off you can take at another time in agreement with your employer. For example, if you agree to cover a local public holiday, you may be granted a day off for another time.  

Break entitlements for full-time employees in Australia

Full-time employees aren’t entitled to breaks when working less than five hours in a row. If you work more than five hours, you are entitled to two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30- to 60-minute meal break. You have to take a break within the five hours – you technically aren’t allowed to work for six hours and take your ‘breaks’ at the end.

Employee rights and protections

The Fair Work Ombudsman governs worker rights in Australia including full-time employees. Under their regulations, as a full-time worker you are entitled to:

  • Regular working hours per your employment contract
  • Award wage, as minimum
  • Overtime pay, per laws for your award
  • Leave entitlements including annual leave, sick leave and bereavement leave
  • Health and safety protections in the workplace
  • Job security including receiving minimum notice 
  • Legal protections including protection against discrimination
  • Collective bargaining rights, such as being a member of a union

It’s your right to lodge a dispute to the Fair Work Ombudsman if you feel you have been mistreated in the workplace. 

Full-time protections at work

In Australia, employees are protected from:

  • Adverse action, including unlawful action in the workplace (such as being unfairly dismissed or injured due to negligence)
  • Coercion, such as being threatened in the workplace
  • Undue influence or pressure, where you are inappropriately influenced to change your conditions of employment
  • Misrepresentation, such as when you’re knowingly misled about your workplace rights

If you experience any of the above, or think you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination, you have the right to make a formal complaint to either your workplace or Fair Work Australia. As an Australian full-time worker, you also have the right to join a union. 

Employer responsibilities

Employers have responsibilities to their employees, including: 

  • reducing workplace discrimination, 
  • handling human resources obligations, 
  • knowing employee entitlements and more.

Understanding your employer’s responsibilities will help you know if or when you’re being unfairly treated in the workplace. 


It is everyone’s responsibility to treat people equally and equitably in the workplace. This means not discriminating due to a person’s:

  • race, 
  • gender, 
  • sex, 
  • age
  • relationship status, 
  • career responsibilities, 
  • religious beliefs, 
  • political beliefs, 
  • trade union beliefs, 
  • physical or mental disability, or
  • pregnancy status. 

It is unlawful for an employer or employees to discriminate in the workplace.

Employment contracts

While an employer isn’t legally required to have formal employment agreements or contracts, it’s in your best interests as an employee to make sure one is in place. It’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure your contract is fair and honest. 

All employers must legally provide their workers with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement. You are still covered by employment legislation regardless of if there is a contract in place or not.

Employee entitlements and awards

As your employer, the company you work for must fulfil the National Employment Standards (NES), covering:

  • pay rates, 
  • awards and agreements, 
  • conditions of ending employment, 
  • fair work institutions, and 
  • legally maintaining records.

This includes ensuring your privacy in the workplace, such as any documentation you provide them with as part of your employment (like ID and your tax file number).

Pay, tax and superannuation

All employees, regardless of being full time, part time or casual, are entitled to receive their correct pay and superannuation contributions. As a full-time worker, your employer must make super contributions to your chosen fund, or you can opt to create an account with their preferred fund.

It’s your employer’s responsibility to register for PAYG withholding tax, work out the amount to withhold, and report to and pay the Australia Tax Office. PAYG is Australia’s system for withholding tax from your pay to help you cover income tax, HECS repayments and the Medicare Levy, if relevant. 

Workplace health and safety

Employers are responsible for maintaining the health and safety of all workers, including full-time employees. Their duty of care includes:

  • ensuring a physically safe workplace, 
  • ensuring safety processes are in place, 
  • taking work-related violence or incidents seriously, 
  • properly reporting incidents, and
  • maintaining the mental health and well-being of employees. 

Workers’ compensation

Your employer is required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance covers you for medical costs and lost wages if you are injured in the workplace or become ill as a result of your workplace. 

As a full-time employee, you have rights and protections in the workplace. These protections are there to ensure your employer is providing a working environment that is fair and safe, and that you are receiving the correct entitlements, both for hours worked and for leave. 


How many hours is a full-time job?

A full-time job typically involves working from 35 to 40 hours per week. The exact number of hours considered full time varies depending on the employer, the industry and your employment contract. 

What is considered full-time hours in Australia?

Full-time hours in Australia typically means 37.5 to 38 hours a week, translating to around 7.5 hours a day, five days a week (typically Monday to Friday). 

Is 30 hours a week full-time?

Thirty hours a week is not a standard full-time work week in Australia. Full-time employment is usually defined as working from 35 to 40 hours per week. While some employers may consider 30 hours a week as full time, it’s not the standard work week as outlined by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Typically, 30 hours per week would be considered part-time employment. It’s best to consult your employer to determine your exact type of employment. 

Is 37.5 hours a full-time job?

Yes, 37.5 hours per week is usually considered a full-time job in Australia. If you’re working 37.5 hours per fortnight or month, that’s considered part time. It’s best to check your workplace policies and employment agreement to confirm your employment type.

What is the maximum overtime hours in Australia?

There is no formal maximum of overtime hours in Australia. However, the Fair Work Ombudsman states that overtime must be reasonable and not pose a risk to the employee’s health and safety. Overtime requests must also take into consideration an employee’s outside commitments, such as family responsibilities.

Do all countries have a 40-hour work week?

Not every country has a 40-hour work week, a typical nine-to-five (or similar) work day, nor a Monday-to-Friday work week. For example, workers in the UAE typically work Sunday to Thursday, while in Spain, employees work between 8:30am to 1:30pm, and then from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, breaking for siesta. Brazil and Singapore have longer work weeks, with an average full-time work week being 44 hours per week. 

What is the difference between an off day and rest day in Australia?

In Australia, a rest day refers to the weekend days of Saturday and Sunday. An off day, or day off, is a non-standard break day. For example, a shift worker working weekends might have Wednesday and Thursday as their usual days off.

How do I calculate my overtime?

In Australia, overtime rates and calculations vary depending on your award and employment contract. Typically, full-time overtime is calculated at time and a half (1.5 x your normal rate). To calculate your overtime at time and a half, take your standard or calculated hourly rate and multiply it by 1.5. This is the amount you will be paid for each hour of overtime. For example, if your hourly rate is $25, multiply this by 1.5 and your overtime rate is $37.50 an hour. If you work 3 hours overtime, you would receive an additional $112.50 in your pay, minus any additional tax. Full-time permanent salaried employees in Australia generally are not paid overtime.

More from this category: Workplace advice

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