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Three weeks with public holidays.

Public HolidaysApril 3, 2017

Three weeks with public holidays. (Last Updated On: August 31, 2017)

The issue of public holiday pay for employees, including who is entitled to what rate and the impact of any leave, is a complex one for employers. April 2017 presents a challenge with the Easter celebrations on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday as well as the usual ANZAC Day commemoration.

A tip for employers on public holidays is 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 – except for casuals.

One example of when public holidays potentially cause confusion is in the hospitality industry, given many restaurants and cafes will open on public holidays. If your business will be trading and you need your staff to work on a public holiday, you can ask employees to work, provided that your request is reasonable. In this situation, an employee may refuse your request if they have reasonable grounds to do so.

Keep in mind though, while the National Employment Standards do not require public holiday rates to be paid, most employees will be covered by an award or agreement which will likely have a clause around pay rates on public holidays.

As these public holidays loom, there is a chance your employees might consider taking ‘sick’ leave to enjoy an extended weekend. Employees calling in sick either side of the three day weekends over the next few weeks may happen, however there are some things you can include in your absence policy  to make sure it is genuine illness preventing employees from coming in to work. As with any workplace policy, it needs to be enforced for it to be useful.

Request any employee who calls in sick produce a medical certificate for the day they were unable to attend work. If you need assistance with the documentation to support this conversation, consult with an Employsure specialist. Another method to deter improper sick leave is to require that employees must call their manager directly when they call in sick. This means the employee cannot just leave a message that they will not be at work. Ensure all employees know they must call you, or their manager, if they are too unwell to attend work. Do not accept voice messages, texts or emails.

Another pitfall can arise when employees are on leave on the actual day of the public holiday. If an employee is on paid leave, and would normally work the day of the public holiday, it is likely they are to be paid the public holiday with no annual leave (or sick leave) deducted. Of course, this depends on what is outlined in the employment agreement or award covering the employee and parental leave is different again.

The public holidays this April fall on the following days:

14 April Friday Good Friday National
15 April Saturday Easter Saturday National (except Tas and WA)
16 April Sunday Easter Sunday ACT, NSW, Qld and Vic
17 April Monday Easter Monday National
18 April Tuesday Easter Tuesday Tas*
25 April Tuesday Anzac Day National

* applicable under certain awards or registered agreements and to state public service

Earlier this year, the Fair Work Commission announced a reduction of penalty rates to be paid. While this will have an impact on public holidays it will only happen after the effective date of the change, being 1 July 2017. However, after this date, public holiday rates will only be reduced in certain industries, so not all sectors will change.

Public holidays have the potential to give employers and employees some time off to refresh and re-energise, so take the stress out of the day by getting your employee entitlements sorted out and know where you stand.

Employsure can help you understand what your obligations are around public holidays and what your employees are entitled to. For advice call 1300 651 415 to speak with a specialist day or night.

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