By Key Business Advisors
Human Resources

It’s that time of the year again and we have managed to collate some of the frequently asked questions that our HR managers repeatedly get asked each year in relation to employees taking leave during the Christmas and New Year period.

If you’re unsure about what to do and not to do, we have got you covered! Before we get started, take a quick glimpse at the public holidays over Christmas and New Years in 2019.

2019 Public Holiday dates over Christmas and New Years

  • Christmas Day – Wednesday 25 December 2019
  • Boxing Day – Thursday 26 December 2019
  • New Year’s Day – Wednesday 1 January 2020.

The Northern Territory and South Australia have part-day public holidays from 7 pm to midnight on:

  • Christmas Eve – Tuesday 24 December 2019
  • New Year’s Eve – Tuesday 31 December 2019.

Queensland also has a part-day public holiday from 6 pm to midnight on Christmas Eve – Tuesday 24 December 2019.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into the questions!

1)Can I request my employees to work on a public holiday?

You can request your employees to work on a public holiday if it’s reasonable. They can refuse if they have reasonable grounds to refuse, such as:

  • 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 shift worker
  • how much notice the employee was given about working
  • the amount of notice the employee gives that they refuse to work.

2) What should my employee get paid when they work on a public holiday?

The employee should be paid his or her base rate plus any additional entitlement if they work on a public holiday. The nature of the entitlement will depend on the award or enterprise agreement (if any) the employee is covered by and this could be:

  • extra pay (eg. public holiday rates)
  • an extra day off or extra annual leave
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day.

For example, if your employee is covered under the General Retail Industry Award or Building and Construction General On-site Award, amongst others, the employee should be paid public holiday rates as per the award.

3)What should my employee get paid if they DON’T work on a public holiday?

If the public holiday falls on a day the employee is usually working, they should be paid their usual base rate with no additional loading or penalties. Some employees are entitled to public holiday rate if they are covered by a certain award. If you are unsure if this applies to you, please contact us.

4)What happens when an employee is on annual leave when the public holiday occurs?

If an employee is on annual leave during a public holiday, the public holiday doesn’t come off their annual leave balance. They should be paid at the usual base rate (see question above) for the public holiday, not the annual leave.

5) My business shuts down over the holidays period. Can I force my employees to take annual leave?

If the award covering the employee allows it, you can request your employees to take annual leave during the shutdown period. If the employee is not covered under any award, you can direct your employees to take annual leave as long as it’s reasonable.

Most of the time, the employer should give at least 4 weeks’ notice to the employee to let them know they are to take annual leave.

If the employee doesn’t have enough leave left to cover the period, you can agree with them to take unpaid annual leave or annual leave in advance. However, they can refuse and can’t be forced to take unpaid leave.

Our team of HR experts will be more than happy to answers your questions. Please book in a time with us.


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