By Nicholas Hartman
The Queensland government is planning to make Christmas Eve a public holiday from 6pm to midnight, reports the Brisbane Times.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the public holiday would mean workers would receive penalty rates of 250 per cent if they were worked between those times.
“The night before Christmas is as important to families as the day itself,” she said.
“It’s a very special time for family and friends as well as communities and churches to come together.
“While the government can’t restore the weekend penalty rate cuts inflicted upon some 160,000 Queenslanders by the then Turnbull-Morrison government, we can at least do the right thing for people working on Christmas Eve.”
Under the Fair Work Act, employees are entitled to refuse to work on a public holiday with reasonable circumstances.
According to documents made public as part of the consultation process, the estimated cost of the holiday to Queensland businesses could be between $41m to $137m, while it would cost the public sector between $9m and $21m in additional wages.
The documents also said that due to the extra cost, some businesses may decide not to open leading to a loss of income for employees. The cost of the penalty rates may also be passed onto consumers.
On the other hand, a bigger pay packet to workers may result in increased spending in the post-Christmas sales.
If the public holiday was to be introduced, it would mainly affect private hospitals, disability care facilities, hotels, freight and airport services, independent retail stores, fast food outlets, petrol stations, pubs, restaurants and clubs.
Meanwhile, public service employees such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, prison officers, public transport workers and energy workers would also be affected.
Despite fears businesses may be forced to shut for Christmas Eve night if the proposed holiday was introduced, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the holiday would be great for small businesses.
“Many employers do the right thing, it’s a special time at Christmas, and what it will mean for small restaurants and cafes and even large restaurants is they can charge the surcharge now (on customers),” she said.
“To attract workers, many businesses have to pay workers additional funds but they can’t charge the surcharge, once we declare it a part public holiday, they’ll be able to then charge a surcharge.”
Meanwhile, Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington said Labour needed to make sure the proposed holiday didn’t cost jobs or increase prices.
The proposal will be open to the public for the next 28 days, and the Palaszczuk government hopes to introduce the public holiday this year.