Public Holidays

Public holidays differ between the two Australian industrial relations systems. Please refer to the relevant section below that applies to your workplace.

Our National Public Holidays are New Year's Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
All other public holidays such as Queen's Birthday and Labour Day are individually declared by the state and territory governments.
In addition to these days, some states and territories also have additional regional public holidays or substitute public holidays. Substitute public holidays mean that if a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it may be that the following Monday is declared the public holiday.
For more information on public holidays, enquiries should be made directly to the appropriate government body. For information on regional and State holidays employers can check the relevant State websites:

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Queensland
Northern Territory
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria

 

The information below applies to workplaces under the National system.

Employees working for national system employers under the Fair Work Act 2009 are entitled to regional and local public holidays in their region that are gazetted by the state government.
The National Employment Standards (NES) forms part of the Fair Work Act 2009 and provides that employers may reasonably request an employee to work on a public holiday. Where such a request is made, the NES also protects the employee’s right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday.
In determining reasonable grounds for an employer requesting or an employee refusing to work on a public holiday the following factors should be considered:
  • The nature of the employee’s workplace.
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities.
  • Whether the employee could reasonably expect that the employer might request work on a public holiday.
  • The type of employment – full-time, part-time, casual or shift work.
  • The amount of notice provided by the employer/employee in requesting/refusing to work on a public holiday.
  • Whether the employee is entitled to receive additional remuneration – penalty rates, overtime, etc.
Payment for NOT working on a public holiday
All permanent full-time and part-time employees are entitled to payment whilst absent from work on a public holiday at their base rate of pay for the employee’s ordinary hours of work for that day, providing the employee would normally work on the day a public holiday falls. A casual employee is not entitled to payment unless they work on the public holiday.
The base rate of pay for the ordinary hours does NOT include:
  • Any incentive-based payments
  • Bonuses
  • Loadings
  • Monetary allowances
  • Overtime or
  • Penalty rates
An employee's roster can't be changed to avoid this payment.

Payment for WORKING on a public holiday
Awards and registered agreements usually provide entitlements for employees working on public holidays including:
  • Extra pay (e.g. public holiday penalty rates)
  • An extra day off or extra annual leave
  • Minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • Agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day.

Substituting public holidaysAn award or agreement may include provisions for an employer and employee to agree to substitute a public holiday for another day.

Award-free employees
An employer and an award-free employee may also agree to substitute a public holiday for another day.

Public holidays during leave
If a public holiday falls on a day when an employee is on leave, their entitlement to the public holiday depends on whether they are taking paid leave or unpaid leave.

Public holidays falling on periods of paid leave
If a public holiday falls during a period of paid leave (e.g. annual leave or sick leave), the employee has to be paid for the public holiday. This includes any hours that fall on a part-day public holiday.
The public holiday will not be counted as annual leave or sick leave. This means that the public holiday hours will not be deducted from the employee’s paid leave accrual.

Unpaid leave
An employee does not receive public holiday pay for any public holiday that falls during a time when the employee is on unpaid leave.
Text Box: Note: Employers should check any specific requirements in the relevant award/agreement covering their employees about public holiday entitlements

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The information below applies to workplaces under the State system.Full time and part time employees working for an unincorporated employer in Western Australia (WA) (generally sole traders and partnerships) who are not required to work on a day that is declared as a public holiday are entitled to be paid as if they were required to work on that day. Part time employees receive public holidays if the day falls on a day they normally work.

Payment for WORKING on a public holiday
Most WA awards specify rates of pay for employees working on a public holiday. An award may for example, require the payment of public holiday penalty rates such as double time, or double time and a half, for all hours worked on a public holdiay.

Full time and part time employees are entitled to be paid for days off on public holidays equal to the amount of hours they would have ordinarily work. Casual employees are generally not entitled to a paid day off on public holidays.

Employees not ordinarily required to work on a day on which a public holiday falls will not be entitled to a paid day off for that day.

Award free employees are not paid any minimum entitlements to additional rates of pay for working a public holiday. An employee’s employment contract should be checked to see what the particular public holiday entitlement of the contract is. Public holidays and public holiday penalty rates (if applicable) apply to apprentices and trainees as they do to other employees.

Public holidays falling in periods of paid leave
If a public holiday falls during a period of paid annual leave, an employee is entitled to claim the public holiday that falls during their period of annual leave as a paid public holiday, not as a paid annual leave day.

Substituted public holidays
WA awards often explain how to pay an employee where a public holiday is substituted.
In some cases, the public holiday observed on the weekday is substituted for the weekend public holiday, meaning only the observed weekday is treated as a public holiday and there is no entitlement to a paid day off or public holiday rates for working on the weekend public holiday.

In other cases, the day observed during the week is an additional public holiday, meaning both the original public holiday on the weekend and the weekday on which the holiday is observed will be considered public holidays for the purpose of determining employee entitlements to paid time off or public holiday penalty rates. If this type of provision applies, an employee would be entitled to a paid day off on both the actual and the observed substitute day (assuming the employee would normally be rostered to work on both days). An employee who work on either the actual or the substituted public holiday, is entitled to be paid any public holiday rates that would apply to both days.

The other possibility is that only the actual public holiday on the weekend will be treated as a public holiday, so that the observed public holiday on the weekday has no effect on employee entitlements to a paid day off or public holiday penalty rates.
If no WA Award applies, then in most cases the extra day will be considered an additional public holiday.

Roster changes affecting public holidays
A roster change for one week is of no effect if that day is a day an employee would ordinarily work - changing a roster for one week doesn’t mean an employee no longer ordinarily works that day.
An employer's ability to change an employee's roster may also be restricted by the rostering provisions in any applicable WA award.
Text Box: Note: Employers should check any specific requirements in the relevant WA award/agreement covering their employees about public holiday entitlements


 

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This document does not constitute human resource or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should contact the HR Help Desk or seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content. © Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd 2017