The Victorian Supreme Court found an abattoir business to have breached its duty of care to an employee’s health by requiring them to work 70 hours a week and be on call 24/7.

Due to Castricum Brothers Pty Ltd cutting its workforce, Joseph Roussety was promoted to plant manager, increasing his hours gradually from 40 up to 70 hours per week. This requirement to work long hours and be on call 24 hours a day and not receive any assistance or support, resulted in the former employee suffering from psychiatric injuries.

Despite Mr Roussety raising complaints, taking extensive periods of stress leave, requesting breaks from being on call, requesting to reduce hours and fainting, the employer failed to reduce his hours and had ‘grown tired’ of the former employee’s complaints. As a result, in 2007 Castricum Brother’s Managing Director requested the manager step down from his position, as Roussety could no longer manage the role after a 91-hour week.

Justice Rita Zammit believed that a ‘reasonable person’ would have been able to identify that the former manager was at risk of sustaining significant injuries or illnesses. A ‘reasonable person’ would have taken the following precautions if faced with the former employee’s excessive hours:

  1. Modified the former employee’s workload;
  2. Reduced or removed his on-call duties;
  3. Monitored the hours he was required to work;
  4. Increased the staff in the rendering plant;
  5. Provided support and direct he takes sick leave or time off if he had worked long hours.

The court has not determined any damages as yet, however, Castricum Brothers is “on notice”, despite their arguments of the manager accepting the hours when he received his promotion. Justice Zammit found the employer may be liable for damages as the manager’s hours increased significantly higher than what was initially agreed upon.  This is yet to be confirmed.

For more information regarding ordinary hours required of employees under Modern Awards and the National Employment Standards, please contact the National Retail Association Hotline and speak to one of our Workplace Advisors on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).