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Public holiday entitlement – The in’s and out’s and the impact on SMEs

As a business owner, it can be tricky wading through the rules and regulations of public holiday entitlement. So, we’ve decided to provide an overview of the in’s and out’s.

When are the public holidays?

Public holidays vary depending on the state or territory your work in, but the days listed below are recognised public holidays across Australia:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1).
  • Australia Day (January 26).
  • Good Friday.
  • Easter Monday.
  • Anzac Day (April 25).
  • Queen’s birthday holiday.
  • Christmas Day (December 25).
  • Boxing Day (December 26).

In addition, there are state, territory and regionally declared public holidays.

Employees are protected by the National Employment Standards (NES), providing them with an entitlement to be absent from work on a public holiday, and guaranteeing them payment if they are absent from their normal hours of work due to a public holiday.

However, under our complex legislation, coupled with the blurring of what constitutes “normal” working hours, questions arise over the circumstances of when an employee is entitled to be paid for a public holiday.

The average Australian worker receives 11 days public holiday per year. These holidays take their toll on business whether they stay open or chose to close.

There is much debate about the cost of public holidays to business. Controversy surrounds the public holiday this Friday in Melbourne ahead of the AFL Grand Final. Business leaders claim that they and the Victoria economy cannot afford the financial impact with estimates at $15,000 lost trade per business that closes and for those that stay open $6,700 additional costs for increased salaries due to penalty rates.

Asking your employees to work on a public holiday

You can ask an employee to work on a public holiday –  and the employee can only refuse to work if your request is unreasonable or they have a valid reason not to. Typically, you may pay them a higher rate – a penalty rate – or offer them an extra day off in lieu of the public holiday.

However, you should think about several factors when asking an employee to work on a public holiday. You should consider their family responsibilities, the type of work they do, their usual hours of work and the notice period you give them about working. Partially to ensure your request is reasonable, and because it also shows consideration for your employees’ lives outside of work.

The Christmas, New Year break

Many businesses impose a shutdown period over the Christmas and New Year period, giving employees the chance to enjoy some well-deserved time off. The legislation provides for businesses to implement this across the entire business or a defined group. The business must, however, give its employees reasonable notice that you will be doing so – this allows workers to adequately plan their annual leave through the year and not be obliged to take unpaid leave.

How The HR Dept can help

Managing public holidays and leave requests in general, can be tricky business, that’s where HR Dept PeopleHub can assist by making and granting leave open and transparent while keeping a track of who has taken what! If you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact The HR Dept.