How to Prepare for Public Holidays

Public holidays are an important part of every Australian’s working life and most employees anticipate them each year because they are entitled to be absent. Employers must be aware of both when these public holidays occur, as well as the laws and stipulations around working and leave during public holiday or they are at risk of being unlawful. 

Here at Weploy, with two offices split across two states, we’ve become accustomed to having some days when half the team is at work and half is not. Australia has 8 public holidays per year (not counting these state-based holidays) which involve additional legislation technicalities, and companies like ours must prepare, plan and forecast well in advance in order to help stay afloat. Not only are there changes in pay rates and charges associated with working on public holidays, it is also a popular time for many full-time employees to request annual leave, causing a strain on the rest of the team who need to keep up with the BAU.

Let’s look at some TOP TIPS on how you can best prepare:


1. Know your holidays

There are a number of State and National holidays observed in Australia with different staff entitlements associated that must be taken into account, even if you don’t personally celebrate them. See the full list at the FairWork association site here. Coming up imminently though, we have the Easter holidays and Anzac Day and the Queen’s Birthday.

If like us, your business operates across multiple states, it is essential you are on top of the different pay entitlements in order to stay compliant. For example, one of the Melbourne team members may be sent to the Sydney office to work on a project throughout November. The Melbourne Cup day falls within this time, but because the team members’ base of employment is Victoria - where the race is regarded as a Public Holiday, that employee will be entitled to the public holiday entitlements even though it is not observed in NSW. Being conscious of different state holidays will help you to plan effectively and ensure teams are working together as efficiently as possible.


2. Know your rights

The law provides permission for employees to be absent from work on public holidays but in some cases, companies may require employees to come into work if there is “reasonable grounds”. Employees can also refuse these requests if there are reasonable grounds. These are:

  • The nature of the work and the nature of work performed. (Eg - Many establishments in the hospitality industry are even busier on Christmas Day)
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities (Eg a father who wants to take his child to their Easter Parade)
  • Whether the employee could reasonably expect that the employer may request work on the public holiday
  • Whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates, additional remuneration or other compensation that reflects an expectation of work on the public holiday
  • the type of employment (e.g. full-time, part-time, casual or shiftwork)
  • the amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the employer when making the request
  • The amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the employee in refusing the request


3. How Much Do I Have to Pay my Employees on Public Holidays?

Permanent employees must be paid their normal wage for their regular hours of work on public holidays, even though they are entitled to be absent from work for the day. Some sectors require their employees to work during public holidays and both full- and part-time workers are entitled to earn more loading onto their regular wage on public holidays. Casuals are also entitled to earn up to 250% of their standard rate for all hours worked on public holidays and these are determined by the award they are under, or the enterprise agreement. There are extra entitlements which may include:

  • Extra pay (Public holiday rates)
  • An extra day off or extra annual leave
  • Minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • Agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day

If you are employing anyone to work on a public holiday, or are being asked to work, you need to check the relevant awards rights closely for full-time, part-time and contingent staff members’ public holiday rights. This handy calculator will help you work out what the overall wage should work out to.


 4. Have a Plan B in Place

The next few weeks are a popular time for regular staff to make full use of the public holidays and take annual leave. If you do find yourself short staffed over a public holiday period, or know that certain departments or skills will be under-represented, utilising an on-demand staffing platform will mitigate the fall out and help to keep up with the BAU. Using an app like Weploy gives you instant access to a talent pool with hundreds of pre-vetted, work ready staff members who are ready to add value to your business for the Public Holiday itself, or for the days, weeks and months either side of them. Your custom dashboard will help you keep track of your contingent staff, their relevant awards classes and the shifts they work so the correct award and penalty rates are calculated at the invoicing stage, saving you the headache.

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Written by Sara

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