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Public Holidays In 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 major public holidays, there are some differences between states and territories in what public holidays are observed and when.

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 but not all states and only one of the territories. Then there are also public holidays, like Western Australia Day, that are only celebrated by one state (guess which one). Finally, there are public holidays like Recreation Day in Tasmania that are only observed at a regional level.

Public Holiday Dates 2021

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.

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. An employee is entitled to public holidays depending on where they are based for work not where they are working on the day of the public holiday.

Below are the designated Public Holiday Dates for 2021:

Australian Capital Territory

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Monday 8 March – Canberra Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Easter Saturday
  • Sunday 4 April – Easter Sunday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Monday 26 April – Anzac Day (substitute day as Anzac Day falls on a weekend)
  • Monday 31 May – Reconciliation Day
  • Monday 14 June – Queen’s Birthday
  • Monday 4 October – Labour Day
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

 New South Wales

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Easter Saturday
  • Sunday 4 April – Easter Sunday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Sunday 25 April – Anzac Day
  • Monday 14 June – Queen’s Birthday
  • Monday 2 August – Bank Holiday (applies to banks and certain financial institutions)
  • Monday 4 October – Labour Day
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

 Northern Territory

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Easter Saturday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Monday 26 April – Anzac Day (substitute day as Anzac Day falls on a weekend)
  • Monday 3 May – May Day
  • Monday 14 June – Queen’s Birthday
  • Monday 2 August – Picnic Day
  • Friday 24 December – Christmas Eve (from 7pm to 12 midnight)
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Boxing Day (substitute day as Boxing Day falls on a Sunday)
  • Friday 31 December – New Year’s Eve (from 7pm to 12 midnight)

 Queensland

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Day after Good Friday
  • Sunday 4 April – Easter Sunday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Monday 26 April – Anzac Day (substitute day as Anzac Day falls on a Sunday)
  • Monday 3 May – Labour Day
  • Wednesday 11 August – Royal Queensland Show (Brisbane area only)
  • Monday 4 October – Queen’s Birthday
  • Friday 24 December – Christmas Eve (from 6pm to 12 midnight)
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

South Australia

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Day after Good Friday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Monday 26 April – Anzac Day (substitute day as Anzac Day falls on a Sunday)
  • Monday 3 May – Labour Day
  • Wednesday 11 August – Royal Queensland Show (Brisbane area only)
  • Monday 4 October – Queen’s Birthday
  • Friday 24 December – Christmas Eve (from 6pm to 12 midnight)
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

Tasmania

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Monday 8 February – Royal Hobart Regatta (only observed in certain areas of the state)
  • Monday 8 March – Eight Hours Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Tuesday 6 April – Easter Tuesday – generally Public Service only
  • Sunday 25 April – Anzac Day
  • Monday 14 June – Queen’s Birthday
  • Monday 1 November – Recreation Day (all parts of the state which do not observe Royal Hobart Regatta)
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Boxing Day (substitute day as Boxing Day falls on a weekend)

 Victoria

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Monday 8 March – Labour Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Saturday 3 April – Saturday before Easter Sunday
  • Sunday 4 April – Easter Sunday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Sunday 25 April – Anzac Day
  • Monday 14 June – Queen’s Birthday
  • TBC – Friday before AFL Grand Final (subject to AFL schedule)
  • Tuesday 2 November – Melbourne Cup
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

 Western Australia

  • Friday 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Tuesday 26 January – Australia Day
  • Monday 1 March – Labour Day
  • Friday 2 April – Good Friday
  • Monday 5 April – Easter Monday
  • Sunday 25 April – Anzac Day
  • Monday 26 April – Additional public holiday for Anzac Day
  • Monday 7 June – Western Australia Day
  • Monday 27 September – Queen’s Birthday (Some regional areas in WA hold the Queen’s Birthday public holiday on a different date)
  • Saturday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Sunday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Monday 27 December – Additional public holiday for Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 28 December – Additional public holiday for Boxing Day

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. State and territory governments have specified that some public holidays are restricted trading days on which only some business can operate, unless they have an exemption.  As workplace relations experts, Employsure cannot advise you on this matter and you should seek clarification from your state or territory government.

If you can otherwise trade on public holidays, employees generally don’t have to work on public holidays. Permanent employees, who would have otherwise worked on a day upon which a public holiday falls, have a workplace right to be absent from work on a public holiday, and be paid their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked on that day, so you have to ask those employees to work on that day if reasonably required. An employee may refuse your request if it is unreasonable. 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, you may need to 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 make clear from when the employee is first employed that they may be required to work public holidays, and to have a policy in place to confirm this expectation and  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 allow you to agree to substitute the designated public holiday for another day, and/or 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

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

  • Which Holidays Are Considered A Public Holiday?

    The following holidays are public holidays in all States and Territories:

    • 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)
  • 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.

  • What Are The Penalty Rates For Public Holidays?

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

  • 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 provides for this. The penalty rate they get paid depends on the applicable industrial instrument, their role and hours worked.

  • Does Leave Accrue On Public Holidays?

    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 award or enterprise agreement (if applicable) may provide for a greater rate of accrual, or time off in lieu for working that public holiday.

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

    Australia Day is a national public holiday, and so employees working on Australia Day may be subject to public holiday penalty rates depending on the modern award or enterprise 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 or territory’s public holiday regulations to see which day is the designated public holiday.

  • 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, Vic and SA, while there are only two in WA and three in the NT. Tasmania alone has a public 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. Some States and Territories also have extra trading restrictions that apply on Anzac Day.

  • Who Can Open On A Restricted Trading Day?

    State and Territories can specify restricted trading days, which are days (often public holidays) on which all businesses that do not have exemptions must close. Business of certain kinds are sometimes automatically exempt, usually food and beverage outlets, petrol stations and certain retail outlets. Whether you can trade or not will depend on your State or Territory legislation and whether you have an exemption.

     Whether an exemption will be granted usually depends on:

    • The nature of your business and the kinds of goods sold
    • The need for your business to be kept open on the day or days concerned
    • The likely effect of the proposed exemption on the local economy, tourism and small businesses and other businesses in the area
    • The likely effect of the proposed exemption on employees of, or persons working in your business
  • How Do I Get An Exemption On A Restricted Trading Day?

    You should apply to your State or Territory Government as to Restricted Trading days that apply to your business, and for more information how to obtain an exemption.

  • So What Happens If An Employee Refuses To Work On A Public Holiday?

    A casual employee can refuse to work on a public holiday. A permanent employee can refuse if the request is unreasonable.

    Employers need to consider all of the relevant circumstances including the below to determine if the request is reasonable:

    • the employee’s personal circumstances, (eg. family responsibilities)
    • whether the employee will get more pay (eg. penalty rates)
    • the needs of the workplace
    • the type of work the employee does
    • whether the employee’s salary includes work on a public holiday
    • whether the employee is full-time, part-time, casual or a shiftworker
    • how much notice the employee was given about working
    • the amount of notice the employee gives that they refuse to work.

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