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  • Anne-Marie James

4 public holidays – for the price of 2 (or is it 2 for the price of 4?)

Did you know that there are 4 days of public holidays for Christmas and Boxing Day this year?


Because they fall on Saturday and Sunday, the government have added additional days for Monday and Tuesday. These aren’t in substitute for the Saturday and Sunday, they are extra public holidays.


This is fine and dandy for Monday-Friday businesses, but if your business is in an industry that never sleeps; like hospitality, food manufacturing, or retail; you probably have shifts over 7 days of the week.


If someone regularly works a Friday – Tuesday shift, suddenly they get 4 public holidays for the price of 2 (lucky them!) On the flip-side, it’s going to cost the business 4 days for what is normally 2 public holidays.


“No worries, I’ll just change the rosters”


Fair Work explicitly says that you can’t shuffle around rosters of permanent staff to get out of paying entitlements.


Even if you close your business and put employees on annual leave to avoid penalties, they are still entitled to get paid for these public holidays if they normally work these days, but you don’t get the income from customers to cover the expense.


“But I pay my staff on salary, so it doesn’t matter, they can just work”


While it’s true that employees on a salary don’t necessarily need to be paid penalties, a salary needs to be enough to cover what an employee would have made if they were paid award wages, penalties, and allowances.


Even if you are one of the careful businesses who carefully calculated salaries to include public holiday penalties, you likely only accounted for 10 public holidays, not 12. At up to 250% of base pay, that’s a pretty significant amount – are you sure your salary is enough to cover these extra days?


“Oh wow; that sounds expensive! What Can I do?”


Now is the time to check out the “alternative public holiday” clauses in your Award and make a plan. Most awards in these sectors allow for substitute public holidays, but you MUST get it agreed in writing, and you MUST keep the agreement as a “payroll record”. Don’t wait until the week before Christmas to start this process; get it locked away before you start getting slammed with the Christmas rush.


Public holiday surcharges are becoming an acceptable penalty for customers who want to go out and enjoy themselves on a public holiday. While this doesn’t help much for supply-side businesses, there may be some merit to considering a public holiday surcharge of your own. In either case, it’s worth communicating why you need to do it – as many customers will have no idea that your staffing costs have more than doubled for 4 days in a row.


“I think I need some help…”

Contact amj@hitobito.com.au. This is one of our special skills – deciphering and translating awards so you can do the right (legal and ethical) thing and make informed decisions about managing your employees.

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