With Christmas around the corner, followed by the public holidays that will litter the first 6 months of 2015, now is a good time to remind you of your public holiday obligations.
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) entitles all national system employees to be absent from work on a public holiday. The FW Act covers eight national public holidays. In 2015, they are:
- New Year’s Day (Thursday 1 January)
- Australia Day (Monday 26 January)
- Good Friday (Friday 3 April)
- Easter Monday (Monday 6 April)
- Anzac Day (Saturday 25 April. Western Australia will also take Monday 27 April as a public holiday)
- Queen’s Birthday (Monday 8 June)
- Christmas Day (Friday 25 December)
- Boxing Day (Saturday 26 December and, additionally, Monday 28 December)
State and Territory legislation also entitles employees working within the relevant jurisdiction to additional public holidays, e.g. Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria and Show Day in Queensland.
But what happens if an employee is working in a different State or Territory on a public holiday? Charles Power answers this and other common questions below.
Until next time,
Common questions (and answers!) about public holidays
Q: What if my employee is working in another State on the day a public holiday falls in the State they are employed?
A: Your employee will be entitled to the public holiday applicable in the State in which they are employed. The entitlement to public holidays is not based on where an employee is working on the day of the public holiday. For example, if an employee based in Melbourne is interstate when Cup Day falls, they will still be entitled to take that day as a public holiday.
Q: Can an employee refuse to work on a public holiday?
A: While an employee does not have to work on a public holiday, you may put in a reasonable request that they do so. However, the employee may refuse on reasonable grounds.
When considering what is reasonable, look at:
- whether the work really needs to be performed on the public holiday;
- the nature and needs of your business;
- the employee’s personal circumstances, e.g. family responsibilities;
- whether the employee works full time, part time, casually or in shifts;
- whether the employee is entitled to additional benefits, e.g. extra pay;
- how much notice you have given of the request to work; and
- the amount of notice the employee has given of any refusal to work.
Q: What happens if a public holiday falls on a weekend?
A: State and Territory legislation sometimes provides that, if a public holiday falls on a weekend, an additional public holiday will be granted, e.g. in 2010, Anzac Day fell on a Sunday and Victoria was granted a public holiday on the Monday.
In 2015, the following public holidays will fall on a weekend:
- Anzac Day – only Western Australian employees are entitled to a public holiday the following Monday; and
- Boxing Day – employees Australia-wide are entitled to a public holiday the following Monday.
Q: What should I pay my employees on public holidays?
A: Under the FW Act, you must pay any employee who is entitled to be absent from work on a public holiday at their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work for the holiday. This doesn’t apply to casual employees who were not rostered to work on the public holiday.
You must pay employees who work on a public holiday at least their base rate of pay for all hours they work on the day. An award or agreement may also provide that these employees receive additional benefits, such as:
- extra pay;
- an extra day off;
- extra annual leave;
- another day off as a substitute for the public holiday; and
- minimum shift lengths.
Q: What happens if a public holiday falls during an employee’s leave?
A: This depends on whether the employee’s leave is paid or unpaid.
If the employee is on paid leave, the public holiday does not count as leave and so should not be deducted from the employee’s accrued leave.
If the employee is on unpaid leave, they are not entitled to be paid for the public holiday.