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Prepare your business for Australia Day

Public HolidaysJanuary 20, 2017

Prepare your business for Australia Day (Last Updated On: January 27, 2017)

It is common that as Australia Day approaches, many people are excited to enjoy a day off from work. However as a business owner, a public holiday may be no time to rest.

Whether your business operates over the Australia Day public holiday or shuts down, it is important to be prepared. It is important to know when public holidays are because employees can get different entitlements on these days.

So, here is the ultimate Australia Day guide for business owners.

When is Australia Day?

Australia day is observed nationally and annually on 26 January. If Australia Day falls on a weekend, the following working day may be considered a public holiday depending on the state or territory.

Operating on Australia Day

Depending on the state or territory of operation, there may be laws that impose restricted trading days. There are some businesses that are exempt – they can open whenever they wish throughout the year. It is important to check however generally the types of business that are exempt may include:

  • chemists
  • petrol shops
  • restaurants
  • cafes
  • takeaway outlets
  • service providers

Australia Day payment

Full-time and part-time employees who normally would have worked on the day that Australia Day falls are entitled to have a day off and be paid their base pay rate. Casual employees are entitled to take the day off but they are not entitled to be paid on that day.

If an employee is covered by an Award or Agreement, and they work on Australia day, they may be entitled to extra pay called a penalty rate, a different day off, or an extra day added to their annual leave.

Asking employees to work on Australia Day

Employers may ask employees to work on Australia Day, but only if the request is reasonable. In the same manner, employees may refuse to work on Australia day if their refusal is reasonable.

During periods of annual leave or sick leave, employees are still entitled to their Australia Day entitlements. The annual leave and sick leave balance should not be reduced for the day that Australia Day occurs.

Public holidays and sick days

Some years, Australia Day falls on a weekday and some employees may choose to take extra days off during the week to have an extended period of time off. At the Employers expense, employees may take a strategic sickie in the lead up to the public holiday.

Aside from the cost of paying out a sick day, the impact on small businesses Australia wide could be significant, particularly if calling in sick means the business cannot function, resulting in lost revenue or for some businesses poor reviews and dissatisfied customers.

Tips to prevent sickies before or after Australia Day.

  1. If your business can accommodate this, work with your employees and/or managers to encourage some people to take an annual leave day
  2. Are your policies and procedures in place and are your staff aware of the business protocol associated with sick days
  3. Send a memorandum around today, post a notice on the notice board or hold a quick compulsory all staff meeting to remind staff on acceptable protocol and the potential ramifications if they fail to comply
  4. Upon reflection of your policy and procedure, perhaps you need to tighten up what is deemed as acceptable sick day behaviour. The best way to manage sickies is to prevent them and you can do this a few ways:

– have employees produce a medical certificate for any day taken as a sick day. If you do not follow this procedure then ensure you do for any day taken either side of a public holiday

– direct any employee to phone their manager prior to a certain time to announce they are sick. Do not accept text messages, emails or voice messages

– upon your employee’s return to work, perform a return to work meeting to make sure the employee is suitable for work and can carry out their responsibilities

– specify in your policy that non-genuine absence will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary action

– explain that excessive levels of absences affect the businesses ability to operate and you have the right to investigate further should re-occurrences continue

  1. When employees return to work after a sick day, if you are in doubt the request was genuine, you need to ensure you have sufficient proof before acting. Please note, you cannot instantly dismiss anyone as a result of a sick day. Investigations and meetings with the employee must be carried out
  2. If your employee fails to comply with any of your sick day policy requirements such as providing a doctor’s certificate, calling their manager directly or attending the return to work meeting you are within your rights to discipline that employee via oral and/or written warning

If you have any questions on how to prevent sick days or managing employees once they return to work, call us today on 1300 651 415. We are available to advise you on all and employment and work health and safety requirements.

Happy Australia Day.

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