Not working on public holidays

Employees have a right to be away from work on a public holiday. Find out further information on employee entitlements during public holidays.

Right to not work on a public holiday

Employees should be given the choice to work on a public holiday or not.

Employers can request employees to work on a public holiday, but the request has to be reasonable.

An employee can refuse a request to work if the:

  • employee has reasonable grounds, or
  • request is unreasonable.

When deciding if an employee will be rostered to work on a public holiday, employers should consider:

  • the nature of the workplace
  • the role and type of work of the employee does
  • employee’s personal circumstances (including caring responsibilities)
  • employment status (full-time, part-time or casual)
  • an expectation that they might be asked to work on the public holiday
  • any overtime, penalty rates or other payment the employee might receive
  • the amount of notice provided
  • any other relevant factor.

An employer can require an employee to work a public holiday if the:

  • employer has made a reasonable request for the employee to work the public holiday
  • employee has unreasonably refused that request.

Base pay rates

Employees (except casual employees) who normally work on the day a public holiday falls will be paid their base pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked if they had not been away because of the public holiday.

The base pay rate doesn’t include:

  • any incentive-based payments
  • bonuses
  • loadings
  • monetary allowances
  • overtime or
  • penalty rates.

An employee's roster can't be changed to deliberately avoid this payment.

Example: Ordinary hours and overtime hours falling on a public holiday

Claire is a full-time employee who usually works overtime on top of her ordinary hours on a Wednesday. She gets an overtime payment for these overtime hours under her award.

Wednesday 1 January is New Year’s Day, which is a public holiday, so Claire has the day off. Even though Claire doesn't go to work, she still gets her base pay rate for the ordinary hours she would have normally worked. She is not entitled to payment for the overtime hours.

An employee doesn't get paid for a public holiday if they don't normally work on the day that the public holiday falls.

Example: No ordinary hours on a public holiday

Ying is a part-time employee. He works Monday to Wednesday each week. This year, Boxing Day falls on a Friday.

As Ying's rostered hours don’t include Fridays, he doesn't get paid for the Boxing Day public holiday.

An award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement can set out other rules and entitlements when not working on a public holiday.

Find out the rules about not working on a public holiday in your award by selecting from the list below.

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Public holidays during leave

If a public holiday falls when an employee is on leave, the employee's entitlement to the public holiday depends on whether they're taking:

Paid leave and public holidays

Annual leave and sick leave

If a public holiday falls during a period of paid leave (for example, annual leave or sick leave), the employee has to be paid for the public holiday. This includes any hours that fall on a part-day public holiday.

The public holiday isn't counted as annual leave or sick leave. This means that the public holiday hours will not be taken away from the employee's amount of built-up paid leave.

Example: Public holidays during a period of annual leave

Marissa is a full-time employee at a media agency.

Marissa organises to take paid annual leave for 10 days. This period includes Anzac Day, which is a public holiday and falls on a Monday.

As Monday is a day Marissa is regularly rostered to work, she has to be paid for the Anzac Day public holiday. The public holiday won't be taken from her annual leave amount. This means that only 9 days are deducted from Marissa's annual leave balance.

Marissa's employer, Tom, makes an adjustment to the payroll system to ensure that Marissa's annual leave balance isn't affected by the public holiday.

If an employee takes sick leave either side of a public holiday, they should still be paid for the public holiday if it is on a day that they would normally work. Normal sick leave rules apply for the time taken as sick leave. An employer can also ask the employee for evidence that shows the reason they took the leave.

If an employee is rostered to work on a public holiday on a day they don’t normally work, and calls in sick, they don’t get paid for that day.

Tip

Employers should check if they need to manually adjust their payroll system to ensure other paid leave (like annual leave) isn't incorrectly deducted during a public holiday.

If an employee is taking annual leave at the same time as unpaid parental leave, they won't be paid for the public holiday.

Long service leave

If an employee is taking long service leave on a public holiday, whether an employee gets paid for the public holiday is set out in the state or territory long service leave legislation.

Learn how to contact your relevant government body for information and advice at Long service leave.

Unpaid leave and public holidays

An employee isn’t paid for any public holiday that falls during a time when the employee is on unpaid leave. Examples of unpaid leave include:

  • unpaid carer's leave
  • unpaid parental leave
  • unpaid community service leave.

Where an employee has agreed to take unpaid leave during a shutdown, payment for the public holidays that fall during that time will depend on:

  • any award or agreement provisions that apply
  • the circumstances of when the employee agrees to use unpaid leave
  • any agreement between employer and employee to be paid for public holidays.

Source reference: Fair Work Act 2009 s.114 -116

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Related information

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Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

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  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.

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