Leading up to the holidays, employers will be actively planning Christmas and New Year coverage to ensure that the business continues to run efficiently. With managers of restaurants, cafes and retail outlets planning for the busy holiday period, and corporate offices likely scaling back their workforce to a skeleton crew, managers across all industries need to be well informed of WA public holidays in relation to penalty rates and how their business will be impacted.

Current legislation outlines that the majority of Western Australian businesses fall under the Public and Bank Holidays Act 1972 in WA. This means that when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the next following Monday is also a public holiday; when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, the next following Tuesday is also a public holiday; and when New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the next following Monday is also a public holiday.

Simply put, employees who work on the following dates may be entitled to be paid at public holiday rates:

  • Saturday 25th December 2021
  • Sunday 26th December 2021
  • Monday 27th December 2021
  • Tuesday 28th December 2021
  • Saturday 1st January 2022
  • Monday 3rd January 2022

As Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day all fall on either a Saturday or Sunday during the 2021/2022 holiday period, there are an increased number of days classified as public holidays. This means that business owners will need to be across employee entitlements in relation to penalty rates, and ensure those provisions are met on all six of these dates.

To prevent the underpayment of wages during this period, employers should be well informed of the conditions set out in the relevant awards or agreements of workers. If an employee is award free, there are no minimum entitlements to additional rates of pay for working a public holiday. If a written employment contract applies to the employee, it’s important to check what the contract specifies regarding public holidays.

What can I do to minimise the risk of underpayment?

A danger to businesses during this time is the underpayment of wages, so it’s crucial that managers implement practical strategies in order to reduce the risk of non-compliance. A few handy tips for business owners are to:

  • Ensure a solid understanding of employee entitlements, bringing in outside expertise where necessary
  • Provide payroll employees with the tools and training to understand employee entitlements and how to find changes as they arise
  • Allocate a team member as the main contact point for any issues or concerns in relation to employee entitlements
  • Ensure employees are able and comfortable to raise concerns regarding their entitlements as they arise
  • Regularly review changes published by the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman

It’s vital that employee databases are audited as a matter of usual practice, ensuring that all of the information aligns with any updates to the National Employment Standards, modern awards or enterprise agreements, their contracts of employment and any recent case law. Being proactive and regularly reviewing business practices are the key to compliance.

If you need support understanding where your business sits in relation to penalty rates over the Christmas and New Year period, contact our team for advice. We can help!

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