Public holidays are government set days of the year where employees can be absent from work for the day, or part of the day. You must still be paid your base rate of pay for this day, unless you are a casual employee. These entitlements form part of the National Employment Standards (NES).
Some public holidays can be different depending on the state or territory you work in, or where your employer is based. Check this list of public holidays provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman to see what public holidays apply to you.
Refusal to work on a public holiday
Under the NES, employees have the right refuse work on a public holiday. This refusal must be reasonable. To help decide if your refusal is reasonable, the Fair Work Ombudsman advises you consider the following:
- The nature of your workplace and the work you do
- Your personal circumstances, such as caring responsibilities
- If you could reasonably expect your employer to request work on the public holiday
- If you are entitled to receive penalty rates or other payments that reflect an expectation to work on public holidays
- Your type of employment (full-time, part-time, causal or shift work)
- The amount of notice your employer gives you when making the request
- The amount of notice you give your employer in refusing the request
- Anything else that is relevant
Contact your union if you are unsure of your right to refuse work on a public holiday.
Payment on a public holiday
You are entitled to payment on a public holiday if:
- You are absent for a day of part of a day that is a public holiday and
- You would ordinarily be working on the day or part of a day that is a public holiday
Casual workers do not qualify under this entitlement, or part-time workers who do not work on the day the public holiday falls.
If you are entitled to payment, your employer must pay you the base rate of pay for your ordinary hours of work on that day. This excludes any bonuses, loadings, allowances, overtime or penalty rates or any other additional payments.
You can contact your union for advice if you believe you have not been paid your entitlements for a public holiday.
Substituting public holidays for another day
Sometimes an award or enterprise agreement may allow for a public holiday to be substituted for another day of the year. You can also make this agreement independently with your employer. If you do swap a public holiday for another day, make sure:
- You are paid as per your public holiday entitlements
- You are still receiving the lawful amount of annual public holidays
Your employer must not pressure you to make a swap. It must be agreed by both parties.
Contact your union immediately if your employer is trying to unfairly influence your decision.