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Public holiday questions answered

December 9, 2015

christmas

It’s that time of year again – a time of hanging excessive Christmas lights in our front yard, gorging ourselves on mince pies and fretting about the perfect Secret Santa gift.

But for you it also means getting your head around public holidays and what they mean for your obligations as an employer. Perhaps we can ease your mind and allow you to relax these holidays.

What are the public holidays for this Christmas / New Year period?

New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory
Christmas DayFriday 25 December 2015
Boxing DaySaturday 26 December 2015
Additional Boxing DayMonday 28 December 2015
New Year’s DayFriday 1 January 2016
South Australia
Christmas EveThursday 24 December (7pm –Midnight)
Christmas DayFriday 25 December 2015
Substitute Boxing DayMonday 28 December 2015
New Year’s EveThursday 31 December (7pm – Midnight)
New Year’s DayFriday, 1 January 2016
Tasmania, Northern Territory
Christmas DayFriday 25 December 2015
Substitute Boxing DayMonday 28 December 2015
New Year’s DayFriday 1 January 2016

What is an additional public holiday and a substitute public holiday?

Additional public holiday
For New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Australian Capital Territory

In these States, an additional public holiday has been declared this Christmas. This means that both Saturday 26 and Monday 28 December are Boxing Day public holidays.

All work on either the Saturday or Monday must be paid at public holiday rates. The employee is not required to work both days, but if they do, they must be paid at public holiday rates for both. Check your Award or Enterprise Agreement for the correct public holiday rates.

Substitute public holiday
For South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory

In these States, a substitute public holiday has been declared. This means that Saturday 26 December 2015 will be treated as a normal Saturday with the usual Saturday penalty rates, while Monday 28 December will be a substitute public holiday and paid at the public holiday rate.

Can I force my employee to work on a public holiday if they say they don’t want to?

As per section 114 of the Fair Work Act 2009, all employees have a right to be absent from work on a day that is a public holiday.

You can request for your employees to work on a public holiday, but that request must be reasonable. An employee may only refuse that request if:

  1. your request is not reasonable; or
  2. their refusal is reasonable.

When looking at whether a request (or refusal) to work on a public holiday is reasonable, the following factors are generally taken into account:

  • the operational requirements of the business
  • the employee’s personal circumstances (e.g. family or carer’s responsibilities)
  • whether the employee could reasonably expect to be asked to work on the public holiday
  • whether the employee would be compensated with penalty payments, overtime etc
  • the amount of notice in advance that you gave when making the request, and by the employee when refusing the request.

For more information on public holidays clients should contact the HR Assured team.  If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.