Leonie asks: I work for the local council and I’ve just now changed jobs within the council. I’m not being paid for overtime or coming in on the weekends.Read more
Eva asks: I am a cleaner and we clean toilets and showers. In the spare toilet block we keep chemicals and cleaning equipment and there is toilet water leaking all over that has a horrible odour to it. This water lies around for days sometimes weeks and we have to walk through it to get to the cleaning products and mops. I’m really worried about health issues and possibly contracting something. I have made complaints to management but they will not listen.Read more
Leon asks: My employer says she doesn’t have to pay me the amount set down in the Award as when I started working for her the Award said I was paid at a lower rate. She said the amount I was employed under is the correct amount and still applies. Is this true? I’ve been here for three years.Read more
Casey asks: I’m working at a kitchen that is non-ventilated and is already reaching 33 degrees. I’m worried about how I will be in summer.
James asks: My boss has asked me to obtain an ABN. Since then I have done so, but I don’t understand why I need to have an ABN if I am working for his business.
More than two million Australians are employed casually. Women account for just over half of all casuals and 40% of casuals are aged 15-24 years, compared with 14% of other employees.
There is no standard definition of casual work but they are usually jobs that are temporary, have irregular hours and are not guaranteed to be ongoing.
Casual workers are entitled to some, but not all, of the benefits given to permanent workers.
Casual employees don't get paid holiday leave or sick leave but they are entitled to a higher rate of pay (casual loading), parental leave and, under the new Fair Work laws, casuals are protected from being sacked unfairly.
As a casual worker you are entitled to a loading on your hourly rate of pay, which means that your hourly pay rate should be more than the permanent workers’ doing the same work as you.
Check your award or agreement to find out what you should be being paid. For more information contact your union or the Union Helpline provides free advice on 1300 486 466.
Casual workers are employed on a ‘shift-to-basis’. You generally have no certainty of ongoing work as a casual worker.
But the casual work relationship should go both ways. If shifts are only casually available, you are not obliged to be always available to your employers. If you are unable to work a shift as a casual worker you should not be forced to work it.
As a casual worker you are not entitled to leave pay or termination notice. However you are entitled to a safe workplace, freedom from discrimination, long service leave and parental leave, and in some circumstances, the ability to request to be converted to permanent work.
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Casual Pay Rates
Employers should tell employees at the beginning of their employment if they are employed as casual or permanent workers. You should ask your employer how you are employed if you don’t know.
Casual loading is the additional hourly pay that casual workers are paid. The hourly pay rate for casual workers is the equivalent permanent hourly rate plus 15-25% of this hourly rate.
The rate of pay and the rate of loading are determined by the award or agreement that covers the job.
Casual workers should have superannuation contributions paid by their employers if they earn more than $450 per month and are over 18 years old, or, are under 18 years old and work more than 30 hours per week.
For more information on awards and agreements that set out your conditions see the Minimum Wages Fact Sheet.
Casual Leave Entitlements
The loading that casuals are paid is compensation for the lack of paid leave provisions that casuals are entitled to, as well as the insecurity of their employment.
Casual employees do not have access to paid sick leave, annual or holiday leave, or to paid personal or carer’s leave. Hence time away from work will usually result in a loss of pay.
Casual workers can request 12 months of unpaid parental leave if they have been working regular shifts in the same job for 12 months or more, and would have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work.
Casual workers can also access long service leave. The length of service after which this can be taken, and the amount of long service leave the worker should get, will be set out in the award or agreement that covers the work, as well as the relevant State or Territory legislation.
See the Types of Leave Fact sheet and information on Termination Pay for further information on this.
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Penalties and Allowances for Casuals
While there is no guarantee of the following, awards or agreements will often state that casual workers:
- Are entitled to be paid at a higher rate of pay for public holidays worked but are not entitled to be paid for public holidays that they do not work;
- Are entitled to extra pay (penalty rates) for evening, night and weekend work;
- Are entitled to the same rest breaks as permanent workers, including at least a 30 minute unpaid break for every five hours of work; and
- Are entitled to a minimum length of shifts.
Check your award or agreement for the conditions that apply to you.
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Conversion from Casual to Permanent Work
If you have been working regular shifts in the same job for a certain period of time casually, you might be eligible to request to be converted to permanent work.
Permanent conversion clauses are contained in awards and agreements. To find out what conversion entitlements apply to your job, you should refer to the instrument that covers you.
Conversion clauses will often state that if a casual worker has been engaged on a regular and systematic basis for a specified length of time – for instance 6 or 12 months – then the worker has the ability to request to be transferred to permanent work.
Employers can refuse this request only by providing reasonable grounds for the rejection.
In some circumstances where an official conversion has not taken place but a casual worker has been employed in ongoing, regular and systematic work over a period of time, then the worker might be considered to be permanent workers for leave and termination purposes. For information on this please contact your union or phone the Union Helpline for free advice on 1300 486 466.
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Casual Work and Unfair Dismissal
Under the new Fair Work laws casual workers have the same access to unfair dismissal provisions as permanent workers.
Casual workers have the right to lodge an unfair dismissal claim provided that they have worked 6 months in the same job. If the company they work for has fewer than 15 full-time, part-time or regular casual employees (and is hence considered a small business) they will need to have worked for 12 months before they access unfair dismissal protections.
Casual workers do not have access to notice of termination, or pay in lieu of notice of termination.
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Casual workers have the same right to work free from discrimination as all other workers.
It is unlawful to be treated poorly at work, or to be fired, on the grounds of discrimination.
For further information about dismissal or discrimination see the fact sheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.
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Casual Work, Work Safety and Union Membership
Casual workers have the same right to a safe workplace as all workers, and the same right to apply for compensation in the event of an injury at work.
Please see the fact sheet Unsafe Work and Bullying for more information on these issues.
Casual workers also have the same rights as all workers to join and to be represented by a union.
All Australian workers are entitled to a minimum wage and set of basic conditions and rights at work. Your wage is set out in your award or agreement and it can not fall below the Federal Minimum Wage. Your wage will also be determined by your job classification and any over-award payment your employer provides.
Federal Minimum Wage
The Federal Minimum Wage is reviewed every year. As of 1 July 2015, the minimum wage will be $17.29 per hour or $656.90 per week.
This wage rate is the minimum wage for an adult permanent worker employed by a company. (Note that minimum wages for workers in some States are different.)
Casual workers should receive a loading on top of the permanent hourly rate of between 15% and 25%.
Wages for Junior workers (people under 21), apprentices and trainees are usually less than the adult rate.
The wage rate that applies to you might be different to the Federal Minimum Wage. Wage rates for different industries, occupations, employers and job types are set out in awards and agreements.
To find out the wage rate you should be paid you can call your union or for free advice phone the Union Helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
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You might be classified as a permanent or casual worker, or you might be a sub-contractor.
Permanent workers might be full-time (working 38 hours per week) or part-time (working less than 38 hours per week).
Permanent workers have an expectation of ongoing employment and regular shifts, and are paid annual leave, sick leave and other types of leave and entitlements.
Casual workers are employed on a shift-to-shift basis and are not paid annual or sick leave. Casual workers have a higher hourly rate of pay to compensate for their lack of conditions and the insecurity of their employment.
Sub-contractors are not technically employees and the minimum wage does not apply to sub-contractors. Sub-contractors run their own businesses and typically work one-off jobs, setting their own hours, and using their own equipment. They negotiate the cost of their labour with the business that they enter into a contract with.
Sub-contractors should take care to ensure that they are not in a ‘sham arrangement’, whereby they are actually being required to work as an employee but are being paid as a contractor.
For advice on this matter you can call the ACTU Worker’s Helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
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You should be paid for every hour of work that you do, whether that work is a trial shift or part of ongoing employment.
It is illegal to work trial shifts and to not be paid, or to be paid under the minimum rate of pay for that work. Unpaid trial shifts are unpaid wages, and you can lodge an unpaid wages claim if you are not paid for a trial.
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Overtime Pay, Penalty Rates and Allowances
Overtime pay, penalty rates and allowances provisions are set out in awards and agreements.
In many jobs employers can request employees to work reasonable overtime (work in excess of ordinary hours). In most circumstances employees are entitled to a higher rate of pay for overtime work. These rates are set out in the award or agreement that covers the work.
Many awards and agreements include additional rates of pay for working evenings, nights, weekends or Public Holidays called penalty rates.
You may also be entitled to allowances such as shift allowances, uniform and meal allowances. Check your award or agreement or talk to our union to find out what penalties and allowances you should be paid.
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At a minimum you have to be paid monthly. Many awards and agreements will require fortnightly or weekly payments.
Payslips are a condition of workplace law. Your employer is required to give you a pay slip in hard copy or electronic form within one working day of being paid.
If you are being paid in cash, be wary that you are receiving the correct pay. Keep your own records of the date and the amount of each pay.
Businesses can be investigated and fined by the Fair Work Ombudsman for failing to provide payslips or for failing to pay on time.
Superannuation and Tax
All eligible workers should be paid at least 9% of each pay into your superannuation fund.
Superannuation saves money towards workers’ retirements, or it can also be accessed in the case of an injury or illness resulting in you being unable to continue working.
An employee is eligible to be paid super if they are:
- Aged between 18 years and 70 years old; and
- Paid at least $450 (before tax) in a calendar month.
Workers under 18 only have to be paid super if they work more than 30 hours per week.
If you think that your employer is not contributing to your super, you should ask your employer if you are receiving super, how much super you are being paid and into which fund it is being paid.
If you know your super fund, you can call them to check that your super is being paid.
If your employer is not paying your super and does not respond to your inquiry, call your union for assistance.
Your tax should also be being paid out of your pay, and the amount of tax that you’ve paid should be visible on your payslip.
Your employer is also required to provide you with a group certificate for tax purposes.
If you are concerned that your employer is not paying your tax correctly or not providing you with a group certificate you can report this to the Australian Taxation Office.
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Have You Been Underpaid?
It is illegal for your employer to pay you less than what is set out in your award or agreement. This includes your hourly rate as well as your allowances and entitlements.
If you are being underpaid:
- Keep your payslips (if they are being given to you), or keep a diary of the dates and amounts that you are paid.
- Talk to your co-workers. Are they being paid properly, or are you all being underpaid? It is easier and more effective to confront your boss about underpayment as a group than individually.
- Tell your boss that you need to be paid at the correct and legal rate. You are also entitled to back pay for the pay that you have missed out on. Consider writing this in a letter.
- It is illegal for an employer to sack you because you have asked for the correct pay. If you lose your job because you asked to be paid correctly or lodged a complaint, then you can lodge an unlawful termination claim.
- Call your union for help. If you are not with your union, join. Encourage your co-workers to join too. Phone the Union Helpline for free advice on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
All workers have a right to a safe and healthy work environment. Unsafe working conditions can lead to serious health complications for workers and even workers’ deaths. Unions take safety at work very seriously. One of the central functions of unions is to advocate for workers’ safety to businesses and the Government and to assist individual members who have suffered work injury.
It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of their worksites and their employees. There should be clear avenues available for employees to express concerns about potential health risks, including employees being encouraged to make any safety concerns known as they occur.
While employers can be investigated and fined for providing unsafe work, emphasis should always be placed upon avoiding injury at work through observance of proper health and safety practices, and through open and responsive communication about workplace safety.
Workers have an important role to play in ensuring their own safety as well, and there are a number of things that workers can do to improve safety at work.
Note that health and safety laws are different depending on which State or Territory you are in and according to your employer.
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Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)
Health and Safety Representatives, or HSRs, are team members elected by their fellow workmates and their role is to communicate between workers and management about safety issues.
An HSR can speak up for workers’ safety, monitor the safety of the workplace, investigate concerns, and attempt to initiate resolutions of workplace safety threats.
HSRs can also issue Provisional Improvement Notices, or PINs*. The issuing of a PIN occurs where regular communication has not been able to resolve an issue, and it puts the employer on notice that they are required resolve a work safety complaint. If an employer fails to respond to the issuing of a PIN then the HSR can lawfully put a stop to work.
HSRs must not be discriminated against by management as a result of their role and responsibilities.
* Note that the laws surrounding HSRs vary between States and Territories, so the best way to find out what provisions apply at your workplace is to get in touch with your union and your relevant State or Territory Workcover or Safework body.
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Union workplaces are safer
Workplaces in which employees feel too intimidated to speak up about workplace safety are likely to see higher incidences of injury and illness, while workers who enjoy the protections of union membership feel more confident to broach issues of health and safety.
Unions facilitate workers’ safety by providing safety advice for workers, convening workplace meetings to discuss concerns, and if required, by representing workers’ concerns to management through meetings or letters. Where unions can represent workers’ concerns, workers are protected from the threat of being singled out for approaching the boss individually.
Evidence shows that having union members in the workplace increases Health and Safety awareness by up to 70%.
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Reporting incidents and workplace inspections
State or Territory Workcover or Safework bodies should be notified of workplaces that remain unsafe in spite of efforts to improve them, and of and workplace safety incidents. These bodies can send workplace inspectors to investigate workplaces. They can also issue improvement notices and fines to employers who are risking their employees’ safety.
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As a minimum standard you should receive at least one half-hour unpaid break for every 5 hours of work. Most awards and agreements will also provide for 10 minute paid breaks during shifts of 3 or more hours in length on top of this.
Your boss should offer you your break. If they don’t you should feel entitled to request it. Working without breaks can lead to a loss in concentration and fatigue, and if breaks are denied consistently, this can lead to illness and an increased incidence of workplace accidents.
When taking breaks they should be genuine. You should not do any work during your breaks.
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Bullying at work is typically defined as repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or a group of employees that creates a risk to their health and safety.
Bullying presents a threat to the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of a worker and is dealt with under the same health and safety laws that cover physical dangers. Forms of bullying can include:
- Unreasonable demands or petty targets/key performance indicators
- Restrictive and petty work rules
- Compulsory overtime, unfair rostering or allocation of work
- Constant intrusive surveillance or monitoring
- Having no say in how one’s job is done
- Abusive language
- Being ignored or excluded
- Being threatened with the sack or demotion
If you feel bullied at work you should see a doctor. Bullying can lead to loss of sleep, muscle ache, nausea, depression, anxiety, headaches, digestive difficulties, irritability and anger. Bullying at work also often places strain on a worker’s personal and family life.
It is important that the doctor consulted about these issues has an understanding of the effects of workplace bullying at the safety measures that should be taken to prevent the situation worsening.
If you are being bullied at work your boss needs to know. If there is an elected Health and Safety Representative at your workplace they also should be made aware, as should your union delegate who can help stop the bullying.
Workers being bullied may be able to lodge a Workcover claim to cover time away from work and lost wages.
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Harassment and discrimination
Bullying may take the form of harassment on grounds of discrimination. That is, bullying can be accompanied by a worker being targeted on grounds of their gender, ethnicity, age, health, sexuality, religion, or a number of other grounds. Bullying may also come in the form of sexual harassment.
Workers who are experiencing discriminatory treatment can lodge a complaint with the body that oversees Equal Opportunity law in their State of Territory. Please visit the website www.humanrights.gov.au for more information on Equal Opportunity Legislation, or to find the relevant Equal Opportunity body in your State or Territory.
If you are being sexually intimidated or harassed at work, as well as following the above procedures, you should notify the police.
If harassment at work is taking a physically abusive form it should be reported to the police immediately, and employees should remove themselves from the workplace.
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If you are injured at work, your employer should be notified as soon as is possible in writing — either by an incident book at the workplace, or through a letter.
Workers who have sustained injury should contact their union immediately for assistance. They should also advise the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) at work.
Injured workers should see their doctor as soon as possible and receive certification of their injury. If the worker injured is unable to do their ordinary work as a result, or is unable to do any work, they should receive a Certificate of Capacity from their doctor advocating either light duties or time away from work.
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Workers can lodge compensation claims for the expenses associated with being injured at work.
Most workers fall under the WorkCover system in their State or Territory, although some working for large national employers may be covered by the Comcare system.
A claim form, obtainable from your employer or from Post Offices, should be filled out with your doctor’s assistance and sent to your employer. Your employer is obliged to send the claim form to their insurance company, which will investigate the claim and decide if compensation is payable or not.
A successful claim will result in compensation for lost wages if the worker has had to reduce or cease work, and for the medical expenses associated with the injury.
Workers should not be made to return to work before they are ready, and workers should not be at risk of injuring themselves in the same way when they return to work.
A worker should never be discriminated against for having been injured at work. Under Equal Opportunity Legislation it is illegal to discriminate against a person on grounds of injury or health, or for having made a work-related complaint. To fire a worker in discriminatory circumstances in unlawful termination and can result in prosecution.
For further information about this please see the fact sheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.
Australian workers and their unions have fought for and won a range of important leave and holiday entitlements that are among the best in the world.
In recent years unions have successfully defended public holiday pay and four weeks paid annual leave from being cut back under the former Howard Government’s unfair WorkChoices laws.
At the same time, unions have helped win more leave entitlements and pay for parents of young children.
The following information sets out the national minimum standard of leave and holiday conditions that apply to all workers from 1 January 2010.
To find out the specific conditions and leave entitlements applicable to you in your job contact your union or call the Australian Unions workers’ helpline on 1300 4 UNION (1300 486 466).
Full-time and part-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid annual leave for every 12 months of continuous service. Shift workers are entitled to 5 weeks of paid annual leave.
Annual leave accrues throughout the year, so part time worker who works 2.5 days per week will have 10 full days of paid annual leave, that can be taken over a 4 week period, at the end of a 12 month period.
Many agreements and awards also provide for leave loading - this is typically 17.5% of your base rate of pay and is paid on top of your normal weekly earnings during your annual leave.
Annual leave that has accrued and has not been accessed is to be paid out at the end of your employment. This payment does not always include leave loading.
If during the period that an employee is taking annual leave a public holiday occurs, then the employee is to be paid for this public holiday and is not to be paid annual leave for this day.
The amount of annual leave an employee has accrued should be visible on their payslip.
Casual workers are not entitled to annual leave.
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Personal Leave (Sick Leave), Carer’s Leave and Compassionate Leave
Full-time, permanent workers are entitled to 10 days of paid personal or carer’s leave per year.
Personal leave is for when you are unfit for work due to illness or injury.
Carer’s leave should be taken when you need time off to provide care or support to a member of your immediate family, or a member of your household, who requires care or support because of a personal illness, or personal injury, or an unexpected emergency.
Paid personal and carer’s leave accrues throughout the year at the rate of your ordinary hours of work. Part-time workers accrue this leave in accordance with the percentage of full-time hours that they work.
The leave is to be paid at the rate of ordinary pay, and at the same time as your ordinary pay would usually occur.
Personal or carer’s leave should not be paid to you on a public holiday where you are entitled to public holiday pay.
Workers are entitled to 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave on each occasion that they are required to care for an unwell family member or household member. Unpaid leave can not be taken where the employee could otherwise take paid leave.
Workers are also entitled to 2 days of paid compassionate leave for each occasion that a member of the employee’s immediate family or household contracts a life threatening illness, sustains a life threatening injury or dies.
You are required to give notice of your requirement to take leave as soon as is reasonably practicable, and to provide evidence of the relevant illness or circumstance that requires you taking the leave.
Your employer is not obliged to allow for leave if you can’t supply evidence.
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You are entitled to access up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave once you have completed 12 months of continuous service with an employer. This applies to all workers, including casual workers. However, casual workers will need to have worked regularly and systematically throughout the 12 months of their service and have a reasonable expectation of ongoing work in order to access parental leave. Parental leave must be taken in one continuous bloc.
Since 2011, women in seasonal, casual or contract work as well as the self-employed also have access to paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
Pregnant workers may begin their leave up to 6 weeks in advance of the expected date of delivery, but no later than date of the child’s birth. For partners who are not giving birth the parental leave must begin on the date of birth of the child.
You may request a further period of unpaid parental leave of up to 12 months to start immediately following the end of the 12 month leave period. This request must be made at least 4 weeks before the end of the original leave period. The employer must agree to this request unless there are reasonable business grounds not to.
You have the right to return to your original position at the end of the leave period, or if their original job is no longer available, then you must be reinstated in an appropriate and comparable role.
To be eligible for Paid Parental Leave it is necessary to:
a) Be the mother of a newborn child or the initial primary care giver of an adopted child under 16 years of age.
b) Have an individual income of $150,000 or less.
c) Be living in Australia and meet the residence requirements. And
d) Meet the Paid Parental Leave work test before the birth or adoption occurs. In other words, you must have worked continuously for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to the birth or adoption of your child and worked for at least 330 hours in that 10 month period (around one day a week.) You can still be regarded as working continuously even if you work part time or casually, work for more than one employer or have recently changed jobs. If you don’t have more than a break of eight weeks between working days you will be regarded as working continuously.
Paid Parental Leave is for a maximum of 18 weeks (at the National Minimum Wage rate.) It is treated the same as any other taxable income. It’s important to remember though that it’s not a leave entitlement; rather it complements parents’ entitlements to leave such as unpaid Parental leave under the National Employment Standards.
To be denied a return to work after parental leave, or to be dismissed upon becoming pregnant, constitutes unlawful termination. For further information on this see the factsheet Unfair Dismissal, Discrimination and Redundancy.
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Long Service Leave
Long service leave recognises long periods of continuous service with the same employer (regardless of changes to job title or role) and is available to both casual and permanent workers.
In normal circumstances long service leave can not be cashed out.
While long service leave is a minimum standard in the new Fair Work laws, it is generally governed by State and Territory Legislation and by awards and agreements.
You should refer to you award or agreement to find out how much long service leave you are entitled to. You can also visit the Fair Work Australia website at www.fwa.gov.au for links to what kind of long service leave provisions apply in your State or Territory.
You can take community leave if you are required to attend jury service, participate in a voluntary emergency management activity, or in other special circumstances.
Community leave applies to casual and permanent workers.
A permanent worker who has to attend jury service of up to 10 days, is to be paid at their ordinary base rate of pay for this period. After this time the employer may not have to top up the allowance that is paid by the court. Check to see if your enterprise agreement covers this situation – if it doesn’t and you need to approach your employer for compensation contact your union who will help negotiate a fair deal.
- 1 January (New Years Day)
- 26 January (Australia Day)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- 25 April (Anzac Day)
- Queen’s Birthday Holiday (on the day on which it is celebrated in your State or Territory)
- 25 December (Christmas Day)
- 26 December (Boxing Day)
This list is not inclusive of State or Territory holidays that might also apply to you, or that might replace some of the public holidays listed above. These include:
- Labour Day (date differs in each State/Territory)
- Melbourne Cup Day (Vic), Bank Holiday (NSW), Royal Qld Show (Qld), Picnic Day (NT), Adelaide Cup (SA), Foundation Day (WA), Royal Hobart Show (Tas)
- Easter Saturday (Vic, NSW, Qld, NT, SA), Easter Tuesday (Tas)
- Show Day (NT), Royal Hobart Regatta (Tas)
You should have public holidays away from work and be paid at your ordinary rate of pay for them.
Your employer can request you to work on public holidays, although the request must be reasonable under the circumstances. You should be paid above your ordinary pay rates if you do work on a public holiday.
Casual workers who are not rostered on to work on a public holiday, and part-time workers whose ordinary days do not fall on the public holiday, do not have to be paid for the public holiday, although they should be paid public holiday rates if they work on a public holiday.
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If you need help at work contact the Australian Unions Hotline on 1300 486 466 for free, confidential, advice and assistance.
Read our factsheets on all your rights, entitlements and conditions at work.
Change The Rules Factsheets
To find out the specific conditions and entitlements applicable to you in your job contact your union or call the Australian Unions workers’ helpline on 1300 362 223.