Australian employees cannot be forced to work unreasonable hours of work after the Australian Industrial Relations Commission ruling on the ACTUs Reasonable Hours Test Case today.

A Full Bench of the Commission headed by AIRC President Justice Geoffrey Giudice ruled that an employee can refuse to work overtime if it is unreasonable. Unreasonable overtime may be determined by considering an employees family responsibility and their health and safety.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow welcomed the decision, saying it was a significant breakthrough for employees struggling to balance their work and family lives.

As a result of the Commissions decision, Australian employees have more rights to help them balance their work and family lives. The Full Bench has recognised the critical need to address the continuing rise in working time in Australia, which has some of the longest and fastest growing hours of work in the developed world.

Employees can no longer be forced against their will to work unreasonable hours. People can no longer keep their heads in the sand on this issue, Ms Burrow said.

The ACTU is pleased that its Reasonable Hours campaign has helped put the issue of work-life balance in the centre of the national debate, with John Howard last week describing it as the most important social debate of our time.

However the Federal Governments opposition to the Reasonable Hours case had exposed the Prime Ministers comments as empty rhetoric, Ms Burrow said.

The ACTUs Reasonable Hours case encompassed the first comprehensive review of working hours in Australia since the national eight-hour day cases in 1947.