We find leading up to long weekends that we get a lot of enquiries around what employers need to pay their employees for public holidays. To avoid unnecessary payroll expenses, or unwittingly underpaying staff, it is important for business owners to be aware of what entitlements they are, and are not, required to pay their employees.

Paying for Public Holidays

All employees, except casuals, who normally work on the day that falls on a public holiday, must be paid their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours as they would normally work each week.

Base rate means the normal rate of pay minus any incentives, overtime rates or allowances.

Ordinary hours means the employee’s normal and regular hours of work which do not attract overtime rates.

Therefore, if you have a part time employee who is normally rostered on a Monday for 5 hours, it is a requirement they are paid as they normally would be, even when the business might be closed and they do not need to work on that public holiday.

Alternatively, employees who do not normally work on the day the public holiday falls, do not need to be paid for that day. For example, if your part time employee doesn’t normally work on a Friday, then they are not entitled to be paid for the Good Friday public holiday.

It is important to note that an employee’s regular roster cannot be deliberately changed to avoid paying for public holidays.

Working on Public Holidays

When businesses do continue to operate on a public holiday, and require employees to work, the employer must make a special request to the employee to work on a public holiday, prior to rostering the shift. When an employee works on a public holiday, they must be paid in accordance with their relevant Award, Enterprise Agreement or registered agreement. Entitlements may include:

  • extra pay (public holiday rates);
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays; or
  • agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day (TOIL).

It is important to refer to the relevant agreement or award to ensure the correct payment is made to your working employee.

Employees do have the right to refuse working on a public holiday on reasonable grounds, and if they do not work, despite being requested to, but are a permanent employee, they will still need to be paid for the public holiday at their base rate as explained above. This is why early consultation with employees is an important part of planning ahead for public holidays, to ensure you are not caught short staffed at the last minute.

If you have any questions regarding the correct payments for public holidays, contact our specialist team for a no obligation chat today.