5 Frequently Asked Questions About Public Holidays

‌Whether or not we celebrate the significance of the day, public holidays can be an exciting prospect with the potential for some well deserved time off (or an increased pay rate). However, along with the excitement also comes some confusion. For instance, the issue can get complex when a public holiday falls on a weekend and a weekday off is allocated instead.

In fact, this Sunday, January 26 is Australia Day, meaning that for most Australians, Monday, January 27 is a public holiday. Public holidays also vary from state to state, which can be confusing for small businesses with multiple locations across Australia. Below you will find 5 frequently asked questions about public holidays relevant for both employers and employees to help avoid the public holiday confusion. 

1. How do public holidays affect personal and annual leave?

An employee’s right to public holidays is separate from personal and annual leave. If a public holiday occurs on a day during an employee’s annual leave or paid personal leave (and the employee would usually have worked on that day), the employee must still be paid on a public holiday and the employee’s annual leave or personal leave balance will not be affected. Casual employees are an exception to this rule. 

2. What is the pay rate for public holidays?

According to Modern Awards, Employees generally have the right to be paid penalty rates for the hours worked on a public holiday. It is important to carefully check the terms of the Modern Awards or Enterprise Agreement, since they may contain additional public holiday benefits for employees. 

3. Do employees get paid for a public holiday they didn’t work?

Full and part-time employees who are absent from work due to a public holiday should be paid their basic pay rate for the hours they would otherwise have worked (this does not include incentive-based payments, bonuses, loadings or monetary allowances). 

4. Can employees work on a public holiday?

Employees can certainly work but are not required to work on a public holiday. However, if the request is reasonable an employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday. On the other hand, an employee may refuse to work if they have reasonable grounds, whether it be a full-time, part-time, casual or shift-worker employee.

5. What are some upcoming public holidays?

  • Monday 27 January; National – Australia Day (substitute day as Australia Day falls on a weekend)
  • Monday 10 February; Tasmania – Royal Hobart Regatta (only observed in certain areas of the state)
  • Monday 2 March; Western Australia – Labour Day
  • Monday 9 March; Australian Capital Territory – Canberra Day
  • Monday 9 March; South Australia – Adelaide Cup Day (March Public Holiday)
  • Monday 9 March; Tasmania – Eight Hours Day
  • Monday 9 March; Victoria – Labour Day
  • Friday 10 April; National – Good Friday
  • Saturday 11 April; National – Easter Saturday
  • Sunday 12 April; National – Easter Sunday
  • Monday 13 April; National – Easter Monday
  • Saturday 25 April; National – ANZAC Day
  • Monday 27 April; Western Australia – ANZAC Day (additional public holiday as ANZAC Day falls on a weekend)

All these dates can be checked on the Australian Fair Work website


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