The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, made the announcement on Sunday that a one-off public holiday would be held on 22 September as a national day of mourning, after the Queen’s funeral.
The sudden announcement has raised concerns among business owners about the timing of the memorial public holiday. The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) called for states and territories to clarify trading conditions for the 22 September public holiday. For Victoria, the day comes on top of the AFL grand final Friday holiday, leading to a four-day long weekend. What does it mean for businesses? How can they cope with this unexpected situation?
Preparing for a public holiday
Why is this holiday different? Basically, businesses need time to prepare for a public holiday. Since nobody was expecting it, they have no alternate plans or solutions for this challenge. With less than 10 days’ notice, they must take a quick decision and pivot. Do they keep working? Or should they close trading for the day?
If you want to keep your business open on 22 September, then the normal public holiday rates will still apply for your workers. This indicates an increase in costs to businesses.
There would be additional staffing costs and scheduling challenges. It will be tricky for smaller businesses such as hairdressing and salons as they would be working on appointment basis. If they decide to stay open, they will have to probably run at a loss due to the increased costs to staffing. They may lose business if they decide to close trading for the day.
Challenges of an unscheduled public holiday
There are predictions that an unscheduled public holiday could cost the economy as much as $1.5b. However, economists have also said that the impact can be short lived.
While some businesses can capitalise on the unscheduled public holiday and maximise their earnings, there are some businesses that have no option but to shut shop. For example, the events industry which has contracts and ticket prices locked-in may not have the option to reschedule or increase earnings. Businesses relying on supply chains for daily stock are also concerned as parts of the supply chain may not be operating.
Hospitals, surgeries, and general practices will have patients booked in for appointments and operations. Some of these patients may have waited months or weeks for these appointments or operations. The unscheduled public holiday would mean health care services, already struggling with staff shortages, would have to face delays and changes.
What does it mean for you?
The timing of the holiday could be expensive for businesses in Victoria and Western Australia. Victoria has Footy Friday on 23 September, meaning they have Thursday and Friday off. Western Australia (WA) has the Queen’s birthday public holiday on the 26 September, which is unfortunate.
Albanese has announced that essential services would be open and penalty rates would apply as usual with public holidays. Public holidays are part of the National Employment Standards (NES). The NES applies to all employees covered by the national system. Further details were being worked out with states and territories.