By Sarah Childs
Just as we’re all getting into the rhythm of work for the year – BAM! – Easter comes right out of nowhere to throw a spanner in our works.
While Easter is a lovely, relaxing 4-day long weekend for some, to others, it’s one of the busiest and biggest trading periods of the year.
It’s usually around this time that HR gets hit with questions around what entitlements need to be considered, rostering advice and what the actual “public holidays” are.
So first of all, in most of Australia, Fair Work states the following days are deemed Public Holidays in the upcoming Easter & ANZAC Day period:
- Friday 15th April – Good Friday
- Saturday 16th April – Easter Saturday*
- Sunday 17th April – Easter Sunday**
- Monday 18th April – Easter Monday
- Monday 25th April – ANZAC Day
* Except Tasmania & Western Australia
** Except Northern Territory and South Australia
The top 5 most common questions we get at this time of year are:
- Can I ask my employees to work on a public holiday?
In short, yes – if the request is reasonable. When determining if your request is a reasonable one, you’ll need to consider a number of factors, including the needs of your business, the type of work they do, whether they’ll receive any penalty rates as well as your employees’ responsibilities outside of work.
Often, if your business is usually open on public holidays, it would be a reasonable expectation on the employee to work, especially as this would have been addressed during the recruitment stage as part of the requirements of the role.
- Do employees get paid for public holidays that they don’t work?
Public holidays are an entitlement under the National Employment Standards (NES), which positions that any full-time or part-time employee are entitled to their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked had it not been a public holiday.
If a part-time employee’s ordinary hours do not fall on the public holiday, they are not entitled to payment. Casual workers are not entitled to be paid when they are not rostered to work on a public holiday.
- What do I pay my employees who work on a Public Holiday?
The entitlements are usually set under the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement, however generally penalty rates should be paid for the hours worked on a public holiday. Other benefits may apply depending on which Award or previously arranged, including a substituting or taking an alternative day off.
- How does a public holiday affect an employee on personal or annual leave?
Public holidays are separate to leave entitlements under the NES. If a public holiday falls during a period of annual or personal leave, the public holiday will be paid and the leave would remain intact for this day. Keeping in mind, this is only for instances of paid leave and would not apply during periods of unpaid leave.
- What happens if an employee refuses to work on a public holiday?
An employee may refuse to work if they have reasonable grounds, which is not dissimilar to the criteria for the employer requesting to work. If you have an employee refusing to work a public holiday, look at all the criteria and determine if they do have reasonable grounds.
In summary of the above, the best practice to approaching public holidays with your employees is to be open and transparent about the expectations, well in advance to ensure enough time to consider other options for both parties.
It is important to note that these questions have been answered in the most general of terms, so it is worth considering the relevant Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreements as many have provisions in place regarding public holidays too.
If you would like more information relevant to your specific industry or business or assistance in interpreting your relevant Award, please contact our friendly team to discuss further by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07 5613 1846.