- Public holidays in Australia
Public holidays in Australiaare declared on a state and territory basis, though most holidays are observed on a national basis since they are declared in all states and territories.
Traditionally, workers, public or private, were entitled to take off a public holiday with regular pay. In recent years this tradition has changed somewhat. For example, businesses that are normally open on a public holiday may require employees to work on the day. Traditionally, in this case, the workers were paid at a penalty rate - usually 1½ (known as "time and a half") or 2 times (known as "double time") the regular pay. But the entitlement to penalty rates of pay has been reduced or entirely eliminated in many work places.
Besides designating days as public holidays, some of these days are also designated as restricted trading days.
In addition, many workers are entitled to penalty rates of pay if they are required to work on
Easter Sunday, which is not a designated public holiday because it always falls on a Sunday which is in itself a rest day. Shop trading restrictions may also apply to Easter Sunday.
There are 5 standard, national public holidays. Public holidays are determined by a combination of:
* Statutes, with specific gazetting of public holidays; and
* Industrial awards and agreements.
If a standard public holiday falls on a
weekend, a substitute public holiday will usually be observed on the first non-weekend day (usually Monday) after the weekend. If a worker is required to work on a public holiday or substituted public holiday, they will usually be entitled to be paid at a holiday penalty rate.
In some states an additional day such as Melbourne Cup Day is provided on a local basis.
Worker entitlements on public holidays
Traditionally, an important aspect of a public holiday was that workers would not be required to work on that day, but be entitled to be paid for the day off. On the other hand, it is recognised that there are some industries or situations when a person may be required to work on a public holiday. In that situation, the person required to work on that day would be entitled to be paid at some premium rate of pay.
This traditional position has come under challenge in recent years.
As a basic principle, workers covered by the
WorkChoicessystem are declared to be entitled to a paid day off. The days specified are:
1 January(New Year's Day)
26 January(Australia Day)
* Good Friday
* Easter Monday
25 April(Anzac Day)
25 December(Christmas Day)
26 December(Boxing Day).
Employees are also entitled to a paid day off on:
* substitute holidays, declared by state or territory law for one of the above listed public holidays (e.g. if Christmas falls on a Sunday).
* on any other public holiday declared by or under a state or territory law (e.g. Queen's Birthday), to be observed generally or in a region, other than a union picnic day.
Workers who come under WorkChoices but who have preserved agreements and awards in place, continue to be entitled to the entitlements contained in those agreements and awards. Most awards incorporate a public holiday clause. These usually provide for the above days as well as Easter Saturday, Labour Day and Queens Birthday as public holidays and for additional days when declared, and for substituted days if these fall on a non-working day. They also usually provide for penalty rates of pay should the worker be required, for whatever reason, to work on a public holiday.
Under WorkChoices, an employer may request an employee to work on a public holiday, but an employee may refuse an employer's request (and take the day off) in reasonable circumstances. The requirement to work on a public holiday would usually be provided for in awards and agreements, though these would expressly provide for penalty rates of pay in those circumstances.
In the absence of an award, workplace agreement or contract of employment an employee is not entitled to be paid at penalty rates for work on a public holiday under WorkChoices.
It has been estimated that 85% of Australian workers are covered by WorkChoices, and that 40% of workplace agreements have dropped gazetted public holidays and that 63% of workplace agreements under WorkChoices do not provide for penalty rates of pay for workers who are required to work on a public holiday. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2006/s1651308.htm Survey finds protections lost under new IR laws: ABC] ] [ [http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S9350.pdf Hansard Senate Estimates Committee
29 May 2006] - Questions to Peter McIlwain, Head of the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA).]
* [http://www.australia.gov.au/Public_Holidays Australian Government - Public Holidays] - Public holidays for each Australian state
* [http://www.actu.asn.au/public/library/publicholidays.html Australian Council of Trades Unions - Library: Public Holidays]
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