Retailers prepare for public holiday onslaught

Andrew Spiteri from Employsure

With five public holidays across five states and territories coming up this long weekend, small business employers must familiarise themselves with the law around staff payments and time off.

Victoria has the AFL Grand Final holiday tomorrow, followed by Labour Day in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia on October 2nd (Monday) and the Queen’s Birthday also on October 2nd in Queensland.

Andrew Spiteri, a Senior Employment Relations Adviser at Employsure, says, “Customer expect businesses to operate across public holidays, meaning employers are requesting their employees work on a public holiday, and employers are entitled to ask – provided the request is reasonable.”

This means that there needs to be a legitimate reason for them to be working on the public holiday. In the same way, employees can only refuse the request if the request is unreasonable.

Full-time and part-time employees who normally would have worked on the day that a public holiday falls are entitled
to have a day off and be paid their base pay rate. Casual employees are entitled to take the day off but they are not
entitled to be paid on that day.

Andrew advises employers to check employee Awards or Agreements that will set out their entitlements when they
work a public holiday.

“If an employee is covered by an Award or Agreement, and they work on a public holiday, they may be entitled to extra pay called a penalty rate, or a different day off to substitute the public holiday.

“Ensure you check the provisions of the Awards or Agreements which apply to your business and employees, along
with their contracts of employment for any terms relevant to a public holiday,” said Mr Spiteri.

Three things Andrew says employers should keep in mind for public holiday periods:
1) Just because some employees are entitled to be absent on public holidays, does not mean that they are not
entitled to pay. No matter which public holiday it is, you must pay employees for their usual hours of work
on that day – except for casuals.
2) However, the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would not ordinarily have worked, then they
are not entitled to be paid for this day.
3) Check employee Award or Agreements which will likely have a clause around pay rates on public holidays.


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