Tips for Navigating Employee Entitlements over the Christmas Period

Wednesday December 9, 2020

Navigating the Christmas holiday payroll can be stressful with the challenges of understanding how to correctly apply leave pay, manage public holidays, additional public holidays and substitute public holidays.

What are the public holidays for this Christmas period?

For the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, the following public holidays apply:

  • Friday 25 December: Christmas Day
  • Saturday 26 December: Boxing Day
  • Monday 28 December: Additional public holiday for Boxing Day
  • Friday 1 January: New Year’s Day

For the Northern Territory and South Australia:

  • Thursday 24 December: Christmas Eve (from 7 pm to midnight)
  • Friday 25 December: Christmas Day
  • Monday 28 December: Boxing Day (substitute day as Boxing Day falls on a Saturday/weekend)
  • Thursday 31 December: New Year’s Eve (from 7 pm to midnight)
  • Friday 1 January: New Year’s Day

For Queensland:

  • Thursday 24 December: Christmas Eve (from 6 pm to midnight)
  • Friday 25 December: Christmas Day
  • Saturday 26 December: Boxing Day
  • Monday 28 December: Additional public holiday for Boxing Day
  • Friday 1 January: New Year’s Day

For Tasmania:

  • Friday 25 December: Christmas Day
  • Monday 28 December: Boxing Day (substitute day as Boxing Day falls on a weekend)
  • Friday 1 January: New Year’s Day

What is an additional or substitute public holiday?

When a state declares an additional public holiday, it means just that – there’s an extra day that must be paid as if it is a public holiday.

When a state declares a substitute public holiday, such as in NT, SA and TAS, it means 26 December (Boxing Day) will be treated as a normal Saturday with the usual weekend penalty rates. However, Monday 28 December will be the substitute public holiday, which should be paid at the public holiday rate.

Payment for a public holiday

At a minimum, an employee working on a public holiday must be paid at their base rate. In the case of an award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement, they must be paid the entitlements set out in the agreement including:

  • public holiday rates
  • an extra day off for annual leave
  • the minimum shift length for a public holiday
  • substituting the public holiday for another day

The base rate of pay excludes:

  • incentive-based payments and bonuses
  • loadings
  • monetary allowances
  • overtime or penalty rates
  • any other separately identifiable amounts.

Full-time employees taking paid leave over a public holiday must be paid for the public holiday. In the case of part-time employees (excluding casuals), if their part-time hours ordinarily include the day (or part thereof) the public holiday falls on, they must be paid for those hours.

Employees taking unpaid leave that falls on a public holiday are not paid for that day.

Can an employee refuse to work on a public holiday?

Yes they can if your request isn’t reasonable or if their refusal is reasonable – according to the guidelines. Ask us for more information if you are facing this situation.

Underpayments in the spotlight

Ensuring you know and understand your employees’ holiday entitlements, so you remain compliant is a must for this holiday season. Even unknowingly underpaying staff is not an excuse. No matter the size of your business, underpaying staff can result in significant back-pay, hefty penalties and can even lead to reputation damage.

Staying on top of employee entitlements, pay scales, penalty rates and leave regulations can be an unnecessary headache. The HR Dept is here to help you ensure you stay compliant this Christmas Season.

Preventing People Problems

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