On 20 June 2011, following an application by the National Retail Association, Vice President Watson of Fair Work Australia handed down a decision indicating that he proposed to vary the General Retail Industry Award 2010 (Award) to carve out an exception to the rule imposing a three hour minimum for shifts for casual employees employed under the Award.

The exception provided that secondary school-aged employees could work for 90 minute shifts, provided that certain requirements were met.  Although no formal variation of the Award was made at that time, it was proposed the exception would commence on 1 July 2011 (after the hearing of submissions).

On 29 June 2011 the Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees' Association (SDA) appealed Vice President Watson's decision and the variation to the Award was put on hold.  On 14 September 2011 the SDA lost its appeal.

This means that a formal variation to the Award will be made in the near future.

Once the variation to the Award is made, employers covered by the Award are expected to be able engage employees for 90 minute shifts if:

  • the employee is a full time secondary school student;
  • the employee is engaged to work between 3:00pm and 6:30pm on a day which they are required to attend school;
  • the employee agrees to work, and a parent or guardian of the employee agrees to allow the employee to work, a shorter period than three hours; and
  • employment for a longer period is not possible due to the operational requirements of the employer or the unavailability of the employee.