With the Easter-long weekend nearly upon us, now is a good time for employers to brush up on their obligations regarding their employees and public holidays.
In addition to the two national public holidays of Good Friday and Easter Monday, some states have additional public holidays for Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday.
The Easter long weekend is also followed by another two long weekends for ANZAC Day and Labour Day.
This concentration of public holidays over the coming weeks, can place a financial strain on some businesses, or cause challenges with workers wanting to take leave over the holiday period.
Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that we are all meeting our obligations to workers.
So, what are some key points to keep in mind?
What do I need to pay an employee on a public holiday?
The details of public holiday pay can vary, ranging from specified penalty rates to time in lieu or additional annual leave.
Your obligations for public holiday pay are determined by the relevant modern award or enterprise agreement and may vary based on factors like the award penalty rate and the public holiday in question.
Regarding the latter, certain industries may mandate higher penalty rates for specific public holidays (such as Good Friday).
If there is no relevant award or enterprise agreement, then public holiday “payment is subject to the terms of your employee’s employment contract.”
There are also other considerations to keep in mind, such as (in certain cases) mandated minimum shift lengths on public holidays.
While many employers will probably be familiar with penalty rates and other aspects of public holiday obligations already, it is still important to ensure that you are fully aware of the specifics and are prepared to meet these obligations.
Do employees have to work on a public holiday?
If a worker is unable or unwilling to work a public holiday, this can cause challenges in keeping a business open or fully operational. Especially if it’s a busy time of year for your business (such as a popular restaurant or café).
While employers can certainly ask employees to work on a public holiday, it is important to note that under certain conditions, an employee may be entitled to decline and take the day off.
This can depend on a number of factors, including:
- the employee’s personal circumstances, such as their family responsibilities
- whether the employee is entitled to penalty pay or additional compensation that reflects the expectation to work on a public holiday
- whether the employee works in a full-time, part-time, casual or shift work capacity
- the advance notice given by the employer in making the request
- the advance notice given from the employee if they refuse the work
- whether the employee’s existing employment contract and salary includes work on a public holiday
- whether the employee could reasonably expect the employer might request work on the public holiday
Am I still obligated to pay employees if they’re not working the public holiday?
Well, that depends on certain factors. But in many cases, the answer is yes.
Even if your business is closed for the holiday, employees (except casual employees) who normally work on the day a public holiday falls should be paid their base pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked.
However, if an employee does not have regular working hours on the day of a public holiday, or if they are employed on a casual basis, then they are not entitled to such payment.
It is also important to remember that an employee’s roster CAN NOT be changed to deliberately avoid paying them for a public holiday.
What about annual and long service leave?
If an employee is away on annual leave or long service leave at the time of a public holiday, they are still entitled to the relevant public holiday entitlements.
If an employee is on annual leave at the time of a public holiday, this should be taken as a public holiday and should NOT be deducted as part of their annual leave.
The case is similar for those on long service leave. In such cases (with some exceptions), “their leave is usually extended for each day they would normally work that falls on a public holiday.”
Key Takeaways and Tips
- Check the relevant award or enterprise agreement to make sure you’re aware of your obligations to employees when it comes to how much they should be paid for working on a public holiday. If there is not a relevant award or enterprise agreement, this information should be present in employee contracts.
- Not all public holidays are the same. In some cases, you may be required to pay different penalty rates for specific holidays.
- While employers are within their rights to ask employees to work a public holiday, there are certain situations under which a worker can decline.
- You may still be required to pay employees who are not at work on a public holiday. This can include those who are on annual leave or long service leave.
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to public holidays and obligations. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.
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https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/public-holidays, https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/public-holidays/not-working-on-public-holidays, https://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay-and-wages/penalty-rates-allowances-and-other-payments/penalty-rates/public-holiday-penalty-rates, https://www.businessaustralia.com/how-we-help/be-a-better-employer/managing-people/working-over-easter-employer-obligations-for-public-holidays