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Employers must ensure correct penalty rates are paid over Easter

Published March 1, 2021 (last updated on November 29, 2023) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


The rate of pay on certain days over the Easter long weekend can differ depending on the state or territory, and as such can result in business owners paying their employees incorrectly.

Good Friday and Easter Monday are considered nationwide public holidays, while certain states have their own rules regarding Easter Saturday and Sunday.

“Employers will need to double check which days public holiday rates apply, and which days employees should be paid as normal,” said Emma Dawson, Business Partner at Employsure, Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor to more than 28,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Generally, if a designated public holiday falls on a weekend, then employees should be paid public holiday rates if they work that day. For employers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT, all four days over the long weekend starting from Good Friday are considered public holidays.

“However, Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory do not consider Easter Sunday a public holiday, and this is where the standard Sunday penalty rates apply instead. Western Australia and Tasmania also don’t consider Easter Saturday a public holiday, although for Tasmania, there is an Easter Tuesday public holiday instead for some employees.”

If employers need to bring on additional staff who were not originally rostered on over the long weekend, they need to check if the request is reasonable. The employee’s personal circumstances need to be considered (eg family or carer responsibilities), the type of work they do such as their role, whether their salary includes public holiday work, or whether they are parttime, fulltime, or casual. Enough notice needs to also be given and the needs of the business have to be considered.

People management software like BrightHR can help employers manage rosters, and can also give an overview of employee hours worked as well as their location if the work takes place over multiple sites.

Public holiday penalty rates are often much higher than the normal rate of pay. The Modern Awards or Enterprise of other registered Agreements applicable to your business and the employee will set out the employee’s entitlements when they work a public holiday.

For those covered under the Hospitality Award for example, the penalty rate for employees working on a public holiday is 225% for permanent employees. The penalty rate depends on the applicable industrial instrument, the employee’s role and hours worked.

Employers who pay a loaded rates which compensate for benefits provided for in the relevant modern award such as public holidays, the rate will need to ensure the rate reflects the employees work pattern. For example, if an employee were to predominately work weekends, the employee’s rate of pay would have to be increased to take into consideration a greater proportion of weekend penalties to ensure that the employee was better off overall.

“The Easter long weekend is one where we see the most confusion each year over what rates need to be paid and on what days,” continued Ms Dawson.

“What we don’t want to see is employers hit with underpayment claims in the coming weeks because their employees weren’t paid correctly.

“Business owners need to assess what days apply to them depending in the state or territory they are operating in, and make sure their employees are getting the benefits they are entitled to in order to avoid any claims down the track,” she concluded.

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