This year Australia Day (26 January) falls on a Sunday. For most States and Territories this means that the Australia Day public holiday is observed on Monday 27th of January, instead of the Sunday.

In South Australia the position is different – both Sunday 26 January and Monday 27 January are deemed to be public holidays.

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides that employees have a right to be absent from work on days that are public holidays and can only be required to work if the requirement is reasonable.

For employees covered by modern awards there will usually be an obligation to pay employees a penalty rate for working on a public holiday (typically double-time-and-a-half), but it is important to check the terms of any modern awards (or enterprise agreements) that apply to your business as some awards and agreements provide for additional rules regarding public holidays (including which ones are observed and what entitlements employees receive).

The usual position – for award covered and award free employees – is that full-time and part-time employees are entitled to be paid their ordinary rate of pay for being absent on a public holiday that falls on a day that they ordinarily would work. Employees are not entitled to be paid where the public holiday falls on a day they would not ordinarily work. This rule is varied in some awards. For example, the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 states that a full-time employee whose rostered day off falls on a public holiday must either: (a) be paid an extra day’s pay; (b) be provided with an alternative day off within 28 days, or (c) receive an additional day’s annual leave.

For more detailed guidance on public holiday obligations please see our Knowledge Base article or contact us.

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