Public holidays.

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How Many Public Holidays Are There Throughout Australia?

The first thing to understand is that public holidays can be national, state-wide or limited to   specific regions. While all Australian states and territories share the majority of public holidays, there are some differences between states and territories in what public holidays are observed.

The nationally recognised public holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Australia Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Anzac Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • Queen’s Birthday (observed at different times by different states)

There are some public holidays, like Easter Sunday, that are observed in many states and one or both of the territories. There are also public holidays, like Western Australia Day, that are only celebrated by one state (guess which one). There are also public holidays like Recreation Day in Tasmania that are only observed at a regional level.

States may also have different regulations in regard to public holidays which fall on a weekend. In some states, a public holiday is scheduled on the following Monday, in lieu of, or in addition to, the public holiday that fell on the previous Saturday or a Sunday.

It is important to keep on top of what public holidays may affect your staff, and what rates of pay your staff are entitled to if you decide to trade on those days.

What Are Public Holiday Pay Rates?

There is no common pay rate for Australian public holidays. Why? There are a multitude of Modern Awards, enterprise bargaining agreements or other workplace agreements, and individual contracts, that may govern an employee’s payment conditions for such work.

Trading on a Public Holiday

If you decide to trade on a public holiday, you must ensure your business is commercially allowed to trade. As workplace relations experts, Employsure can not advise you on this matter.

If you can otherwise trade on public holidays, you have to request employees to work. An employee may refuse your request if it is unreasonable, as permanent employee’s, who would have otherwise worked on a day upon which a public holiday falls, has a workplace right to be absent from work on a public holiday, and be paid for ordinary hours. Further information on requesting employees to work on public holidays is below.

Requesting Employees to Work on Public Holidays

In some industries, employees are needed to work on public holidays. For instance, in the hospitality industry, many restaurants are open during public holidays.

You may request employees to work on a public holiday, provided that this request is reasonable. There needs to be a legitimate reason for them to be working on the public holiday, and employees may refuse your request if it is unreasonable.

Before requesting an employee to work on a public holiday, consider their personal circumstances (e.g. family responsibilities), the role they fill and the needs of the workplace. It is always a good idea to have a policy in place to set the expectation that the business operates on public holidays.

If you are an employer in a sector that requires employees to work during public holidays, you may find that some Awards and agreements provide extra entitlements for employees. Some of those entitlements include:

  • extra pay, e.g. public holiday rates
  • an extra day off or extra annual leave
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays

Accruing Leave on Public Holidays in Australia

Employees who are entitled to paid leave on a public holiday will continue to accrue leave at the normal rate, regardless if they work or not during a public holiday. If they do work on a public holiday, the applicable Modern Award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (if applicable) may provide for a greater rate of accrual, or time off in lieu for working that public holiday.

Closing Down Over Public Holiday Periods

You may decide to close your business over a public holiday period, which most commonly, many businesses do over the Christmas/New Year’s period. If that’s the case, you may be able to direct your employees to take paid or unpaid leave for days they may usually have worked, during the shutdown, ensuring that you are complying with any notice provisions which may be present in a Modern Award, Enterprise Agreement or contract (if applicable).

If you would like further advice on this topic, feel free to get in touch with workplace relations experts at Employsure. We also have a Christmas closedown checklist that may help businesses shutting down during the festive season or any other time of the year.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do Casual Workers Get Penalty Rates On Public Holidays?

    If casual workers are working on a public holiday, they may get public holiday penalty rates, if the applicable Modern Award, Enterprise Agreement or contract states this. The amount extra they get paid depends on the applicable industrial instrument, their role and hours worked.

  • Does Australia Day Fall Under the Category Of Public Holiday Rates?

    Australia Day is a national holiday, and so employees working on Australia Day may be subject to public holiday penalty rates depending on their Modern Award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which may be applicable to them. However, if 26 January falls on a weekend, the day may be subject to Saturday or Sunday rates, with the following Monday having a public holiday rate applied instead. Check the applicable state’s public holiday regulations in this case.

  • How Many Public Holidays Are There Over Easter?

    The answer to this question depends on your state or territory. There are four public holidays in NSW, the ACT, Qld and Vic, while there are only two in WA. Tasmania is the only state to have a holiday on Easter Tuesday (the Tuesday after Good Friday) and that holiday only applies to some employees. It is important to check your relevant Government website for specific details on this.

  • Do Contractors Get Paid for Public Holidays In Australia?

    Independent contractors would only be paid on a public holiday, if they engage in services for you over a period considered to be a public holiday in Australia, your state or region. Payment would not necessarily be divided into a “public holiday rate”, it would simply be a negotiated rate between you and the contractor, as per any other contractor arrangement. A contractor may factor additional fees into their service rate and pass this on to you, for engaging in services when they would otherwise have a day for recreation.

  • Is Anzac Day A Public Holiday?

    Anzac Day is a nationally recognized public holiday in Australia, observed on 25 April each year. Different states have different regulations regarding holding an extra public holiday if Anzac Day falls on a weekend, or during the Easter weekend.

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