Do I have to give my drivers a rostered day off?

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One of the key benefits to becoming a member of NatRoad is the free-of-charge advice on how to manage your workforce in line with the Road Transport Awards. Every day, we receive a range of enquiries about the entitlements of employees and ways to resolve workplace issues.

When it comes to the most frequent enquiries, questions around rostered days off (RDOs) are high on the list. Almost every week we are asked: “Do we have to provide RDOs to our drivers?”

However, like many questions that relate to workplace relations, the answer to this simple question is not simple.

In short, the answer is ‘yes’ if your drivers are employed under an award, rather than having an enterprise agreement – but there are some conditions and flexibility in the ways these can be delivered.

There are two main awards that cover work in the road freight industry: the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2020 (Distribution Award); and the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2020 (Long Distance Award).

Generally, the Distribution Award applies to a road freight operator, unless a long-distance operation is undertaken. A long-distance operation is defined as a journey that exceeds 500km from a principal point of commencement to a principal point of destination, or an interstate journey in excess of 200km.

Even though the two Awards are closely linked, the RDO provisions are markedly different. Clause 13.5 of the Long Distance Award specifies that full-time drivers are entitled to an RDO for each month of employment. If the employer didn’t want to give an RDO, then the option available was to get a mutual agreement in writing between the employer and individual employee/s to accumulate (bank) up to 10 RDOs that are then “cashed out” when an employee takes a period of annual leave.

The value of an RDO when it is “cashed out” (i.e. the amount that the employee must be paid) is 20% of the minimum weekly wage rate set out in clause 16.1 of the Long Distance Award, rather than the rate of pay derived from the cents per kilometre driving rate, or the hourly driving rate.  These arrangements could be captured in a specific agreement with an individual employee called an Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA).

On the other hand, clause 20.5 of the Distribution Award specifies that RDOs must be provided, unless the employee is working ordinary hours, for example seven hours and 36 minutes (7.6 hours) daily over a continuous five-day period. This Award is more complex than the Long Distance Award, with exceptions in place depending on the size of the workforce, the type of freight involved and client arrangements that are prejudiced by RDOs, to name a few.

An alternative to offering RDOs is to put in place IFAs with your employees, negotiated after they start work with the business.  IFAs could be developed to modify the operation of the Award, so long as employees under the IFA are better off overall than under the Award. As an example, an IFA could specify that any number of RDOs may be cashed out when an employee takes (or cashes out) their annual leave.

With numerous public holidays approaching in the next few months, you may also wonder what to do when an RDO falls on a public holiday. The entitlement to a public holiday is in addition to the entitlement to an RDO, the two are mutually exclusive.

An RDO cannot fall on a public holiday. As such, it is usually taken at some mutually agreed time, or added to the bank of accrued RDOs where permitted. This is because an employee has already “earned” the time off for the RDO.

Each day, there are many different member inquiries. Sometimes these “simple” questions can result in an answer that is not simple, especially when they relate to the details of the employment safety net.  If in doubt, call a NatRoad adviser.


NatRoad communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Our advisors are available to clarify any questions you have and provide the right advice for your business and workforce. Contact David at david.johns@natroad.com.au or Richard at richard.calver@natroad.com.au, or on (02) 6295 3000