Public Holidays, Annual Leave & Your Business

The holiday season approaches, and with it comes a number of public holidays (each one right after the other). It can be a busy time of the year for many, and with many employees potentially planning to take time off around the holiday period, scheduling can become a bit of an issue. 

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you do the right thing for your employees when it comes to holidays and pays.

Some establishments may remain open during holidays for trading (such as those in retail or hospitality). In that event, employers may ask staff to conduct business operations as usual.

Requesting Staff To Work

If your business is open during a public holiday, you may ask your staff to work if required. However, an employee is able to refuse the request if it is considered to be unreasonable. 

According to Fair Work Australia, a reasonable request to work should consider:

  • The nature and needs of the workplace
  • The personal circumstances of the employee
  • Whether the employee will receive more pay for the work (i.e. double time)
  • The type of work involved
  • Whether their salary includes work on a public holiday
  • Their employment status (full-time, part-time, casual)
  • How much notice is given with regards to working on a public holiday
  • The notice an employee gives when refusing to work on a public holiday

Pay For Public Holiday Hours

Most employees are entitled to penalty rates for working on a public holiday. These are set by the award or enterprise agreement the employee is under. 

Some awards and agreements allow staff and employers to agree to substitute the public holiday for a different day, get time off in lieu, or have a day added to their annual leave balance.

When a public holiday falls on a day or part-day that an employee would usually work, you must pay the employee their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work. Normal requirements and relevant penalty rates are in effect.

Public holidays that fall on an employee’s paid leave do not get treated as annual leave; the day is still treated as a public holiday and the employee must be paid at least their base rate of pay for the day.

Maintaining compliance with the requirements of holiday pay for your workers is one of your responsibilities as their employer. You do not have the automatic right to terminate your employees if they refuse to work on a public holiday though, and must remember this in your interactions with your staff. 

Taking Leave Over The Closedown

You may instruct your employees to take annual leave for the remaining days during the shutdown period but cannot compel your employees to take it. However, an employee cannot unreasonably refuse your request to take annual leave if they have accumulated it over a long period.

Employees that have not accrued enough leave to cover the holiday period can arrange with their employers to take leave in advance or unpaid. Workers who do not agree to this arrangement cannot be forced by an employer to take unpaid leave unless the industry award allows them to. If not, employers will have to pay workers at a normal rate for the period of the shutdown.

Want to be certain that you are maintaining your obligations as an employer when it comes to your staff’s pay arrangements? Review your employee’s employment contract and understand both their’s and your holiday rights and obligations well in advance of the holiday season.  

Start the conversation with us today for further business planning strategies to get ahead in 2022. 

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