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NAB in court over 'excessive, unreasonable' staff hours

Demands that National Australia Bank employees work long overtime hours without pay to meet targets or be considered for promotions will be examined in a union test case.

The Finance Sector Union of Australia has filed Federal Court proceedings against NAB and subsidiary MLC on behalf of four managers allegedly required to work up to 16 hours a day to meet excessive workload demands.

Some managers had to work weekends without pay and sometimes without meal breaks to avoid being fired or complete tasks assigned to them, said FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano.

"These relentless long work days are affecting the health of the managers, leading to them suffering stress, anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion," she said.

"The excessive hours are having a profound impact on the lives of our members, affecting their health, their relationships, the time available to spend with their families and their overall quality of life."

The FSU is asking for court-ordered compensation payable to the four managers plus penalties paid directly to the union.

If the union wins, it will ask NAB to repay up to 10,000 staff who also worked for similarly excessive hours, Ms Angrisano says.

"This case is just the start. We know the culture of the big banks exploits workers and we will be going after them as well."

In what the FSU describes as "serious contraventions" of Australian employment law, NAB and MLC required staff to work more than the 38 hours per week stipulated in the bank's enterprise agreements.

Ms Angrisano said this was a "systemic cultural issue" that stemmed from understaffing within the bank.

"Big banks have reaped the benefit of implementing a culture that encourages and expects workers to perform high levels of unpaid work as a career development tool and a way to demonstrate their commitment to the company," she said.

"Working hard should not be equated with working excessive, unreasonable, unpaid hours."

NAB group executive of people and culture Susan Ferrier said the bank's priority was the health and wellbeing of its staff and its employees were not expected to work unreasonable additional hours.

"All leaders are expected to proactively monitor workloads and act when they identify an issue or when concerns are raised," she said.

"We take any instance where workload impacts a colleague's health and life outside work seriously."