Public Holidays – your quick reference


Public Holidays – your quick reference

Public Holidays can be a nightmare for some employers!   What do you pay your staff? How do you roster your staff?

HR Central often gets questions around public holidays and here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions.

1. What do I have to pay employees who work on public holidays?

Employees get paid at least their base rate for all hours worked on a public holiday and an extra public-holiday rate. The exact rate that you must pay to your employees varies depending on the agreement or award that your business would be covered by. If you are unsure of the award, classification or exact rate you should be paying your staff, double check it with HR Central, for peace of mind.

2. Do I have to pay employees who don’t work on public holidays? Why?

Employees (not including casual employees) who normally work on the day a public holiday falls should be paid their base rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked if there had not been a public holiday.

An employee’s roster cannot be changed deliberately to try and avoid making public holiday payments.

Please note that the base rate does not include any loadings, allowances or overtime that may be owed.

3. Can I avoid paying public holiday rates?

Unfortunately for employers, you cannot avoid paying public holiday rates.

However, some agreements and modern awards will allow for employers and employees to make arrangements to substitute public holiday pay for an extra day off or an extra day of annual leave.

Substituting or opting to provide an extra day of annual leave instead of paying public holiday rates upfront, will mean that you won’t have to outlay as much money all at once. While you will eventually have to pay out this money in terms of annual leave, or a day in lieu down the track, in the short term this can help your business if cash flow is an issue. Again, we recommend checking the relevant Modern Award to confirm if you can do this and if so, this would have to be agreed to by the employee.

4. Can employees refuse to work on a public holiday?

Yes. Employees do not have to work on a public holiday.

As an employer, you can ask an employee to work on a public holiday, if the request is reasonable. However, an employee may refuse this request.

5. What happens if my employee is on annual leave during a public holiday?

If an employee is on annual leave during a public holiday and the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would normally work, the public holiday will not be counted in the annual leave.

For example, Tom is on annual leave for 10 days, from the 30th of October to the 10th of November. During this period, the Melbourne Cup Public Holiday falls on the 7th of November. As Tom would usually work on a Tuesday, this day will not be counted in Tom’s annual leave and therefore he will only use 9 days of his annual leave for his holiday.

6. What do I do when an employee works during a public holiday interstate?

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

For example, Jane who works in Melbourne, flies to Sydney for a conference on the 29th of September (AFL Grand Final Public Holiday). As Jane is based in Melbourne, she is still entitled to the public holiday rates, even though in Sydney there is no public holiday on this day.

We hope this clarifies payments around public holidays for you, and if you would like further information, give us a call on 1300 717 721


HR Central

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