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Working on public holidays

My hospitality business relies on holiday trade and one of my employees informs me he is not interested in working on public holidays. Is he permitted to do this?

Great question and, given the formal answer and your industry, a willingness to work public holidays is something you might have clarified at interview stage.

Bottom line? Employees are not obligated to work on a public holiday.

An employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday, if the request is reasonable. An employee may refuse a request to work if they have reasonable grounds.

The following need to be taken into account when deciding if a request is reasonable:

  • 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 those listed above.

Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can provide entitlements for working on public holidays, including:

  • 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.

Like to know more about your festive period employment obligations? Check out 5 things to know about public holidays during the Christmas and New Year period from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website here.

 

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