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Pay rates for public holidays

Published on Apr 15, 2019

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As you’re probably aware the Easter long weekend starts this Friday. And due to the seemingly random way the Easter calendar works, this year it falls near Anzac Day. So what should you pay your staff if they work on public holidays?

Pay rates for public holidays

Which days are public holidays?

Public holidays differ from state to state. In NSW, the public holidays over the next few months include; Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, and the Queen’s Birthday holiday.

For many of us it’s simple, a public holiday comes along and it’s a great opportunity to have the day off with pay. But how does it play out for different types of workers in different industries? Firstly it comes down to whether you want to operate on public holidays or not.

Businesses that open on public holidays

You should talk to your staff and give them reasonable notice that you would like them to work on the public holidays and not just spring it on them at the last minute. You also need to ASK your employees to work and not just expect them to work.

Conversely if they have a reasonable reason for not being able to work you can’t force them and they shouldn’t be ‘punished’ for not working. The legislation around public holidays is based on reasonableness on both sides. Any dispute arising from working on public holidays will in part boil down to whether the request and/or the refusal was reasonable.

Staff that work on public holidays will usually be entitled to receive penalty rates in accordance with their award or enterprise agreement. Penalty rates vary from industry to industry and from award to award. You need to check that you’re paying the correct amount.

Businesses that don’t open on public holidays

If you don’t open or don’t ask staff to work on public holidays then it’s simple. Full-time or part-time staff that would normally work on those days, are paid a base pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked if they hadn’t been away because of the public holiday.

However, you can’t change an employee’s roster to deliberately avoid paying them for the public holiday. This applies to part-time staff in particular. Alternatively if your part-time worker doesn’t normally work on the day the public holiday falls, while they are entitled to the day off, they aren’t entitled to be paid for it.

The bottom line

Working out pay rates for public holidays can be complicated. Take a look at the Fair Work Ombudsman website for more information. It also has a comprehensive pay calculator by industry to work out the correct pay level for your staff including the correct penalty rates.

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