Don't get caught out on public holidays

By  Stephanie Oakley
Category: Business

When it comes to public holidays, business owners have the responsibility of getting it right. Consider the following:


National public holidays

Under the National Employment Standards (NES), the following days are national public holidays:

  • 1 January (New Year’s Day)
  • 26 January (Australia Day)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • 25 April (Anzac Day)
  • Queen’s birthday holiday (celebrated on different days for each State or Territory or a region of a State or Territory)
  • 25 December (Christmas Day)
  • 26 December (Boxing Day)
  • Any State or Territory (or a region of a State or Territory) specific public holidays.


Employers can ask their staff to work on public holidays if it is required, however, an employee can refuse the request if it considered unreasonable.

Fair Work Australia reminds business owners to decide if the request is reasonable by considering:

  • the nature and needs of the workplace
  • the employee’s personal circumstances
  • whether the employee will get more pay
  • the type of work
  • whether their salary includes work on a public holiday
  • their employment status (full-time, part- time, casual, etc.)
  • how much notice is given
  • the notice an employee gives when refusing to work on a public holiday.


Pay on public holidays

Most employees are entitled to penalty rates for working on a public holiday, these are set by the award or enterprise agreement the employee is under. Some awards and agreements allow staff and employers to agree to substitute the public holiday for a different day, get time off in lieu, or have a day added to their annual leave balance.

When a public holiday falls on a day or part- day that an employee would usually work, you must pay the employee their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work.


Other considerations

Public holidays that fall on an employee’s paid leave do not get treated as annual leave; the day is still treated as a public holiday and the employee must be paid at least their base rate of pay for the day.

A reminder that penalty rates for Hospitality, Fast Food, Retail and Pharmacy industries changed as of 1 July 2017. 


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