Can you change an employee's roster while they're overseas?

Published 11 July 2023 | 2 min read

Imagine being an employee eagerly anticipating a well-deserved vacation overseas. You've meticulously planned everything, booked your flights, and notified your employer about your leave well in advance. You embark on your trip, only to receive unsettling news while you're thousands of miles away. Your employer decides to change your roster without consulting you, potentially disrupting your work-life balance and causing unnecessary stress. This unfortunate scenario recently played out in a case heard by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in Australia, raising questions about the rights and responsibilities of employers when it comes to changing an employee's roster while they are overseas on leave.

Employer vs. Employee in roster disputes

In this particular case, a student-worker employed by Certis Security in partnership with Business Risks International Pty Ltd found himself caught in a roster dispute. The worker had taken extended annual leave to travel to India. During his absence, his supervisor scheduled another employee to cover his weekend night shifts. However, upon the worker's return, he discovered that his roster had been changed, and he was scheduled for weekday shifts instead of his preferred weekend night shifts. A disagreement ensued between the worker and his supervisor, leading to the worker threatening to resign.

This case sheds light on the complexities of roster management and the potential impact it can have on employees' lives, especially when they are overseas on leave. While employers may argue that they have the right to make changes to rosters based on operational requirements, it is essential to consider the employee's perspective and the potential consequences of such changes. Rosters play a vital role in work-life balance, especially for employees who have specific availability restrictions, such as students with classes or workers with family responsibilities. Changing rosters without considering employees' needs can result in increased stress, decreased job satisfaction, and even the loss of valuable talent.

Future benefits of open communication

By taking a step back and examining the case mentioned above, you can learn from the mistakes made by Certis Security. When considering roster changes for employees who are overseas on leave, it is crucial to engage in open and transparent communication. By involving the employee in the decision-making process, employers can better understand their needs, aspirations, and constraints. This approach fosters trust, ensures fairness, and demonstrates a commitment to supporting employees' work-life balance. Such positive practices can lead to higher employee morale, increased productivity, and improved retention rates.

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