As we head into the Christmas season and the multitude of public holidays, we think it’s worth a reminder that there are specific requirements for requesting employees to work on a public holiday.
In Queensland, the following dates are designated public holidays:
Christmas Eve (Tuesday 24 December) from 6pm – 12am
Christmas Day (Wednesday 25 December) all day
Boxing Day (Thursday 26 December) all day
New Year’s Day (Wednesday 1 January) all day
Your relevant award or enterprise agreement should specify the required terms for additional pay, time off or substitution when it comes to working on a public holiday.
Despite the incentive, employees aren’t obligated to work a public holiday. Employers are allowed to reasonably request that the employee work on a public holiday, however, the employee may refuse to work on the public holiday, if they have a reasonable reason. As it states on FairWork.gov.au, there are specific scenarios for the employer to consider when it comes to what is reasonable, including:
- the employee’s personal circumstances, (eg. family responsibilities)
- whether the employee will get more pay (eg. penalty rates)
- the needs of the workplace
- the type of work the employee does
- whether the employee’s salary includes work on a public holiday
- whether the employee is full-time, part-time, casual or a shiftworker
- how much notice the employee was given about working
- the amount of notice the employee gives that they refuse to work.
When requesting that an employee work on a public holiday, employers need to consider all relevant circumstances, including the ones listed above.
Importantly, minimum public holiday entitlements exist under the National Employment Standards (NES), which applies to all employees under the Federal employment system, regardless of award or agreement.
Should action be taken against an employee for having, using, or seeking to use their workplace right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday, this can be considered adverse action, which can have serious consequences for the employer.
If you can’t come to an agreement with your employee/s regarding working on a public holiday and what’s reasonable, it makes sense to get professional advice on this issue before the holiday arises.
Need more info? Give our Workplace Partners a call ASAP!
* This is general information only and doesn’t take your specific circumstances into account.