How To Prepare For Public Holidays

22nd Jun, 2020 | Resources

Australia has eight public holidays per year, on top of a number of State-based holidays.

For seasonal businesses, public holidays often mean a spike in business during a period when many permanent employees opt to take leave, resulting in an increased reliance on casual staff.

This means businesses need to forecast, plan and prepare well in advance to avoid skill gaps or staff shortages, and ensure all public holiday and penalty rates are properly factored into payroll and budgets.

Let’s have a look at how you should prepare your business for public holidays:

Know your public holidays

There are a number of public holidays that you must be aware of at a National and State level.

Australian national public holidays 

  • 1 January (New Year’s Day)
  • 26 January (Australia Day)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • 25 April (Anzac Day)
  • Queen’s birthday holiday (the day on which it is celebrated in a State or Territory or a region of a State or Territory)
  • 25 December (Christmas Day)
  • 26 December (Boxing Day)

If you are operating across multiple states, knowing your State holidays is integral to staying compliant to appropriate pay entitlements.

For example, if you are a Perth based business running a promotional campaign in Melbourne, and are unaware of the new Victorian AFL Grand Final public holiday, you may be caught out under-budgeting or underpaying.

For a full list of State public holidays, please refer to Fair Work.

What rate do I pay my casual staff on a public holiday?

Casual employee rates are determined by the modern award, or if you have one, your enterprise agreement. Your employees’ entitlements may change depending on your state, the public holiday and the modern award.

For example:

  • Tasmania is the only state in Australia to declare Easter Tuesday a public holiday. But, public holiday entitlements on this day are only applicable to a small number of modern awards, not all–confusing, we know!
  • Some modern awards provide a higher penalty rate for work performed on Good Friday. The Meat Industry Award 2010 outlines that all employees who work on Good Friday will be paid at double time and a half for the first four hours and treble time thereafter.

Please check your award closely for full-time and part-time public holiday entitlements.


Most common casual awards

Hospitality Industry (General) Award

Under this award, casuals who work in hospitality and fall under this award are entitled to at least 250% of their standard hourly rate on a public holiday.

General Retail Industry Award

Under this award, casuals who work in retail are entitled to at least 250% loading on a public holiday.

Amusement Events & Recreation Award

Under this award, casuals who perform certain duties in the events industry are entitled to at least 250% loading on a public holiday.

It’s vital that your business understands the nuances of every modern award that your casual staff fall under.

The entitlements mentioned above are purely a guide and not advice. For comprehensive information on public holiday entitlements, please head to Fair Work.

Plan ahead  

The normal rhythm of your roster may be disrupted as your permanent staff take leave, and it’s reasonable to assume your casual availabilities will also differ.

Businesses need to plan rosters with more lead time than usual to get on the front foot of any challenges that may arise–such as skill gaps or staff shortages.

It’s useful to analyse previous public holiday rosters in conjunction with performance indicators such as foot traffic or revenue–helping you understand the right level of staff required.

Public holiday periods are a really busy time for Sidekicker. We see many businesses, requesting staff last minute, often in a panic, because they didn’t plan effectively.

What if my casuals refuse to work?

Requesting availabilities and managing your roster is one thing, but what if all your casuals request time off? Can you do anything about it?

According to Fair Work, your casual employees do not have to work on a public holiday.

However, you can ask them to work if the request is reasonable, and in turn an employee can only refuse to work on reasonable grounds.

What are reasonable grounds?

  • 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
  • how much notice the employee was given about working
  • the amount of notice the employee gives that they refuse to work.

For more information on reasonable grounds, please head to Fair Work.

If you do you find yourself short-staffed over a public holiday period, Sidekicker has over 10,000 pre-screened staff ready and waiting to work across a number of industries.

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