Public Holidays

Public Holidays – You either love them or you hate them!

What we’ve found over time is that Public Holidays create confusion amongst Employers.  Especially when it comes to paying their Employees. No one intentionally wants to get it wrong, but inadvertently, sometimes they do it without knowing.

Under the 121 Modern Awards, each Award has a section on what “has” to happen on Public Holidays. The Fair Work Act also outlines specific treatment on Public Holiday for Award Free Employees. So, what does that all mean?

In the marketplace, Public Holidays are known for being “time and a half” or “double time”. This comes from the Award but there are other practices that exist and depending on how renumeration is structured, it might be a different situation all together.

So we thought it might be useful to go through a few scenarios that can exist.

Award Free Employees not required to work on a Public Holiday.

All Full Time Employees are entitled to have the “day off” on a Public Holiday. They are paid their normal ordinary rate for this particular day.

Part Time Employees they are entitled to have the “day off” on a Public Holiday, if they normally work on the day that the Public Holidays falls upon. If it falls upon a day that they normally work then they are paid their normal ordinary rate.

Casual Employees are not entitled to be paid their normal ordinary rate if they do not work on a Public Holiday. The Casual loading they receive has taken this into consideration.

If any of the above are required to work on a Public Holiday, depending on the renumeration structure, they may be entitled to a higher rate of pay. Generally, Award Free employees are paid above the Award Rate and therefore not required to have this loading. But if you’re unsure, it might be worth conducting a Better Off Overall Test (BOOTS) to make sure you are safe.

Award Employees

If any Award Employee is required to work on a Public Holiday, the applicable Award will dictate the hourly rate they are to receive for that time worked.

Likewise if a Full Time or Part Time Employee is not required to work a Public Holiday and it is a day that they would normally do, they must be paid their ordinary rate for that time. If an Award Casual does not work on a Public Holiday, they do not receive renumeration for that time.

We know that sometimes the cost of working a Public Holiday is prohibitive for some Employers, but perhaps another solution is that Employers can offer day in lieu for working the public holiday. That might be exchanging a Public Holiday for a day when the Employee takes Annual Leave or perhaps on their birthday or when the Employee needs a “me” day.

During April there are three Public Holidays within two weeks of one another. If you’re not sure what you’re meant to do, now is the time to ask for help. Being proactive is essential. It’s a lot easier to understand your obligations prior to them occurring so that you can make the best-informed decision. It can be costly if you do not get it right.

You might feel that you pay more than the Awards, but if you haven’t checked this lately you might be caught out. This is the area where the likes of 7/11 and Coles got caught out with underpayments. They have large HR teams assisting their business and they still got it wrong.

Let us help you – [email protected]


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