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Guide to Public holidays in Australia and penalty rates

2 min read

The 2010/2011 festive period was a nightmare for employers trying to work out what days were public holidays and when employees were entitled to a day off with pay. Unfortunately this Easter, similar confusion is likely to arise.

Public holidays in Australia

While the Fair Work Act 2009 has declared Good Friday, Easter Monday and 25 April (ANZAC Day) as public holidays, it also allows state governments to create additional public holidays or substitute public holidays.

National Employment Standards (NES), modern awards and public holidays

The NES provide the right for an employee to be absent from work without the loss of their ordinary pay for any day that is declared a public holiday. An employee can reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday, and an employer can also reasonably require an employee to work. Factors in deciding the reasonableness of a request include: family responsibilities, nature of the work, amount of compensation, and notice of the request or refusal.

An award, modern award or enterprise agreement may establish the rate of pay that an employee must be paid if required to work on a public holiday. Many awards require an employee to be paid at a rate of double time and a half for a minimum of four hours on a public holiday. Award-free employees are not entitled to penalty rates for work performed on public holidays.

It is extremely important that employers do not attempt to change rosters in order to avoid or minimise an employee’s entitlement to public holidays. This can be seen as attempting to avoid your employment obligations, and fines from the Fair Work Ombudsman can apply. An employer and employee can only mutually agree to substitute a public holiday day for another day if their award or agreement allows for such an arrangement.

If you have any questions regarding public holidays please call McIlroy IR Group on 1300 153 154 or email {encode=”” title=””}.

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