We answer the top five common questions that arise in the workplace regarding public holidays including pay, leave & entitlements.
Five common questions about public holidays
- When are some upcoming public holidays?
- Can I ask my employees to work on a public holiday?
- Do employees get paid for public holidays that they don’t work?
- What rate do I pay employees who work on a public holiday?
- How do public holidays affect personal leave and annual leave?
When are some upcoming public holidays?
- Monday 4 November; Tasmania (some regions) – Recreation Day
- Tuesday 5 November; Victoria – Melbourne Cup
- Wednesday 25 December; National – Christmas Day
- Thursday 26 December; National – Boxing Day
Can I ask my employees to work on a public holiday?
The entitlement to public holidays forms part of the National Employment Standards (NES). On public holidays, employees can be absent and be paid for their ordinary hours of work. Employees can be required to work on a public holiday provided the requirement is reasonable. To determine what is reasonable, there are a number of factors to consider, including the needs of the business, the kind of work they do, whether they will receive additional pay (ie penalty rates), and personal circumstances such as carers responsibilities. For all of the factors see our Public Holiday Knowledge Base article. Employees can refuse a request to work on a public holiday if it is reasonable or if the Employer’s request is unreasonable.
For a business that routinely opens on a public holiday, it will usually be reasonable for the employer to require an employee to work on a public holiday, especially when the employee has been given advance notice (for example, if the requirement to work public holidays was made clear to the employee when they were offered the job). A refusal by an employee may be reasonable where an employee has notified an employer in advance, they will not be able to work on a particular public holiday because of family commitments.
Do employees get paid for public holidays that they don’t work?
The basic position under the NES is that full and part-time employees are entitled to be paid their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked, had it not been for the public holiday. Part-time employees whose regular hours do not include the day of the week on which the public holiday falls are not entitled to payment. Similarly, casual employees are not entitled to be paid when they are not rostered on a public holiday.
However, some Modern Awards provide for different rules regarding absence on public holidays. For example, clause 38.3 of Restaurant Industry Award 2010 provides that where a public holiday falls on a full-time employee’s day off work they must either be (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.
What rate do I pay employees who work on a public holiday?
Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreements set out the entitlements for working on a public holiday. Generally, employees are entitled to be paid penalty rates for the hours worked on a public holiday.
However, it is important to check the terms of the Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreement carefully as they may contain additional benefits for employees in respect of public holidays. For example, that they must be provided with an alternative day off when they work on the holiday or that they are entitled to be paid for a public holiday even if it falls on a day they do not usually work.
How do public holidays affect personal leave and annual leave?
The entitlement to public holidays is separate from an employee’s entitlement to personal leave and annual leave. This means if a public holiday falls on a day during an employee’s period of annual leave or paid personal leave (and the employee would ordinarily have worked on that day) they still must be paid for the public holiday and it does not reduce their annual leave or personal leave balance.
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