What is RDO? A Complete Guide to Rostered Days Off in Australia

Doug Vincent
Doug Vincent
April 19, 2024
RDOs give you some time to relax and unwind despite the hectic and heavy work of capital projects.
Imagine going to the beach on your next RDO. Sweet!

Now, who doesn’t love a good day off! More time for fun, friends, and family.

Australia's capital projects are large, complicated and demanding of its work force. Anyone who's managed a large-scale project – be it subcontractors, contractors or client-side project managers – knows the pressure to deliver on time and budget. A well-deserved day off goes a long way to relieving this pressure.

Australia’s Rostered Days Off (RDOs) system provides a valuable lever for optimising workforce wellbeing, contributing to successful project outcomes. A well-rested, motivated team is less prone to costly mistakes and delays caused by fatigue. By strategically managing RDOs, asset owners and project managers can build a more resilient project plan supporting workers and the bottom line.  

But how can one properly manage RDOs for the entire workforce? This article will explore best practices for RDO management in the context of capital projects, offering key insights and practical strategies for implementation.

Properly managing staff RDOs can make your project run smoothly.
Plot staff RDOs strategically.

What is RDO in Project Management?

Rostered Day Off, or RDO meaning, a scheduled day when an employee is not required to work (yay). RDOs provide a structured way to compensate employees with time off, especially in construction and capital projects, where the demands often include extended working hours and tight deadlines.

This system is a beneficial and strategic tool in project planning, helping prevent burnout and maintain high productivity levels among teams. RDOs are particularly crucial in managing the intense workflow associated with large-scale projects in Australia where there is a limited labour force compared to large nations (Australia only has 25 million people!).

Benefits of RDO in Australian Construction Capital Works Projects

Effective RDO management can be particularly beneficial especially for capital projects, which involve substantial investment and often have significant implications for client satisfaction.  

They ensure that the most skilled workers are available and perform at their best, directly influencing project quality and timelines. Discussing RDO benefits in this context highlights how they contribute to a more productive and harmonious workplace.

Effective RDO Management Techniques

Implementing effective RDO management requires careful planning and communication. Strategies include negotiating RDO schedules at the start of the project, using project management software to track the accrual and use of RDOs, and ensuring that all team members understand the system.  

Effective management also involves balancing RDOs with project milestones and deliverables to ensure that critical work is not disrupted. Applying RDO management practices effectively allows projects to run more smoothly and teams to work more cohesively.

Map out RDOs strategically to prevent worker burnout, but also keeping the project on schedule despite having some days with less workers.
It takes a well mapped-out plan and proper communication to implement RDOs.

Where to Find RDO Regulations Information

1. Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)

The FWO doesn't create industry-specific RDO policies. Instead, they enforce the Fair Work Act and National Employment Standards (NES), providing Australian workers baseline rights.

The NES might indirectly influence RDOs through provisions around maximum weekly hours, overtime, and rest breaks. For example, if an employee's work pattern needs regular overtime, an RDO system could be a way to compensate for those extra hours.

You can find more info and resources on FWO's website to help understand the NES and how it intersects with issues like RDOs.  

2. Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM)

The AIPM doesn't directly mandate RDO policies. They provide resources and frameworks and promote best practices for project management professionals.

They might address RDOs in their guidelines on workforce management, fatigue management, or creating sustainable work environments within the project management context.

Where to Find Info: Check the AIPM website for publications, research, or articles on RDO-related topics.

3. Consult Australia

Consult Australia represents firms providing consulting services, many of which may be involved in capital and construction projects. They are not a regulatory body but advocate for their member companies.

They might provide guidance or industry benchmarks to their members regarding RDOs, especially attracting and retaining talent in the consulting space.

4. Modern Awards

Modern awards are the primary place to find specific RDO rules for various roles within the capital and construction project industry.

Some awards might include clauses specifying the following:

  • Which roles are eligible for RDOs
  • How RDOs accrue (e.g., one per month)
  • Rules around taking or scheduling RDOs

The Fair Work Ombudsman's Award Finder is the best place to search for relevant awards.

5. Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs)

Enterprise Bargaining Agreements, or EBAs, are negotiated between an employer and its employees (often with union representation). They can override certain award conditions if they provide more beneficial employee outcomes.

EBAs offer the most flexibility for tailoring RDO provisions. They might include:

  • Expanded eligibility for RDOs beyond what the award dictates
  • More generous accrual rates
  • Flexible scheduling options
With RDOs, your team will come back refreshed and energized; ready to take on the tough work ahead!
With RDOs, your team will come back refreshed and energized; ready to take on the tough work ahead!

Key Areas Where RDO Regulations May Apply

1. Eligibility for RDOs

Some awards or EBAs might connect RDO eligibility to specific job titles or classifications. For instance, site-based roles with longer or irregular hours may more likely qualify for RDOs than office-based administrative staff. This ensures fairness and targets RDOs toward those working extended hours.

Another approach links RDO eligibility to exceeding standard weekly working hours (e.g., 38 hours). This incentivises employers to manage workloads and compensate employees for extra time through RDOs.

2. Accrual of RDOs

This refers to the rate at which RDOs accumulate. Regulations might specify how many days worked trigger an RDO entitlement. Examples include one RDO per month or one after every 19 days worked.

There could be restrictions on the maximum number of RDOs an employee can gain at any time. This helps ensure project continuity and prevents situations where a backlog of unused RDOs builds up.

3. Scheduling of RDOs

Some policies might dictate specific days when RDOs must be taken (e.g., every other Friday). Others might offer flexibility, allowing employees to choose their RDOs with advanced notice. Fixed schedules streamline project planning, while flexible ones cater to employee preferences.

Regulations or company policies might address how RDOs are scheduled to ensure project progress isn't significantly disrupted. This could involve restrictions on taking RDOs during critical project phases or requiring staggered RDOs within a team.

4. Compensation During RDOs

Regulations might clarify whether employees receive their regular base pay or another pay rate while on a scheduled RDO. Typically, RDOs are paid at the standard rate, but exceptions might exist for specific circumstances.

RDO regulations might touch on how working on a scheduled RDO is compensated. This could involve overtime pay calculations or penalty rates depending on the award, agreement, or company policy.


Rostered Day Offs are a strategic element in project management, especially in construction and capital projects helping manage worker fatigue, enhance job satisfaction, and maintain high productivity.

Think of it this way: even the machines we use for work has its limitations. It heats up a few hours and gets worn down easily if you don’t give it a rest. Even more with humans! Of course, this is not to say that we’re treating employees as machines, and that proves how important RDOs are in the entire project’s health. After all, everyone’s health is vital in every capital project.

By effectively implementing RDOs, project managers can ensure their projects run smoothly while adhering to Australian employment laws. For anyone involved in managing large-scale projects, understanding and applying Australian RDO regulations is essential for success.

Take control of every step in your Capital Project lifecycle