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Public holidays.

Public holidays are an important part of every Australian’s working life and your employees are most likely looking forward to the public holidays in each year’s calendar. This is because they are entitled to be absent from work on these days or part-days. As an employer, you need to be aware of both when these public holidays occur, as well as the laws and stipulations around working and leave during public holidays.

Public Holidays in Australia

Australia has a number of public holidays throughout the year. It is important that you as an employer are aware of their dates and occasions so that you can plan the working year. So, take note of the following public holidays and keep them in your calendar:

  • 1 January (New Year’s Day)
  • 26 January (Australia Day)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • 25 April (Anzac Day)
  • Queen’s birthday holiday (whenever it falls in your state or territory)
  • 25 December (Christmas Day)
  • 26 December (Boxing Day).

Employers should also know that just because all employees are entitled to be absent on public holidays, does not mean that they are not entitled to pay. No matter which public holiday it is, you must pay employees for their usual hours of work on that day – that is except for casuals. If employees do not usually work on the day that the public holiday falls then you also do not need to pay them.

Working on public holidays

In some cases, employees need to work on public holidays. For instance, in the hospitality industry, many restaurants are open during public holidays. If you are an employer in a sector that requires employees work during public holidays, you may find that some awards and agreements provide extra entitlements for employees. Some of those entitlements include:

  • extra pay, eg, public holiday rates
  • an extra day off or extra annual leave
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day

Asking employees to work

Your business may at times necessitate employees to work on a public holiday and as an employer you are entitled to ask – provided that your request is reasonable. That is, there needs to be a legitimate reason for them to be working on the public holiday. On the other hand, employees can only refuse the request if they have legitimate reasons for not working or if your request is unreasonable.

There are certain aspects to working on public holidays that you should consider when asking employees to work. Some of these considerations include:

  • personal circumstances, eg family responsibilities
  • whether they will get more pay, eg penalty rates
  • needs of the workplace
  • type of work they do
  • whether their salary includes public holiday work
  • whether they are full time, part time, casual or shift worker
  • notice period you gave them about working
  • notice period they gave you about not working

 

It is also important to note that the National Employment Standards (NES) does not require you to pay penalty rates or give days off in lieu if employees work on public holidays. However, in some cases, employees are covered by awards, agreements or contracts which can provide for public holiday entitlements. Make sure that you read into these potential entitlements before asking employees to work on public holidays.

Public holidays during leave

Sometimes public holidays fall during an employee’s leave, eg annual leave or sick leave . If this is the case, then you must pay them for the public holiday. It is also important to note here that if a public holiday does fall during an employee’s leave, the public holiday is not taken away from the accrual of their paid leave.

There are some circumstances though when a public holiday will fall during a period of unpaid leave. If this occurs then you do not have to pay for it.

Employsure advisers are always available to help – even on public holidays! So if you’ve got any questions, please call our 24-hour Advice Line now on 1300 651 415.

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