Victorian government decides Christmas is a public holiday as concerns mount over last minute changes


The last minute change to Victoria’s Christmas Day public holiday arrangements has left some business groups worried about the potential impact on SMEs that have planned staffing ahead of time.

Christmas Day falls on a Sunday in 2016, and Small Business Minister Philip Dalidakis originally intended for the holiday to be recognised on the 27th in Victoria, with penalty rates only applying on that day.

While the other states and territories observe an additional public holiday in the event that Christmas falls on a weekend, Victoria had a “substitute” holiday in place, until the state government changed its position earlier this month and decided to designate both the 25th and 27th of December as public holidays.

“I’ve had time to consider how the existing arrangements unfairly affect those Victorians required to work on Christmas Day when it falls on a weekend – that’s why I’m making this change,” Small Business Minister Peter Dalidakis said of his decision.

Premier Daniel Andrews championed the change of heart, telling his Facebook fans: “We got it wrong”. The decision has garnered thousands of responses on social media, both from workers who had lobbied the government for the change, and business owners frustrated by the seemingly sudden change of heart.

Read more: Business groups accuse NT of “stealing Christmas” as SMEs in the territory face prospect of two new public holidays 

What it means for businesses

Those employing staff on Christmas Day will now have to pay staff penalty rates for that time worked, in line with their award or enterprise agreement.

For casuals, public holiday rates are often calculated from the employee’s annual base rate, plus the loading that the award designates for the holiday – but the Fair Work Commission encourages employers to review their responsibilities through its pay calculator, and contact the commission directly with any questions about the actual rate of pay.

The act of bringing Victoria in line with other states is not the issue of concern, says Victorian head of the Australian Industry Group, Tim Piper—it’s the speed with which governments change their minds and the overall number of public holidays that now have to be observed.

“This is not so much about the public holiday that we’re talking about—the thing is that it’s been announced so late,” Piper told SmartCompany.

“It becomes farcical – this is not so much about Christmas day, which I think some people agree would have some recognition, but people [need to] be able to plan for it.”

There have been a number of figures on the potential monetary impact of the additional holiday on the Victorian economy, with Ai Group putting this at “up to $100 million”, although an exact figure has been difficult for anyone to pin down.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Mark Stone said the issue was more about the rostering, planning and budgeting that businesses have already done prior to the decision being made, with the government signing off on the two public holidays five weeks before Christmas.

“Businesses will now enter 2017 looking at the Victorian public holiday calendar as a rough guide, knowing that it may be subject to change with just a few weeks’ notice,” he said in a statement.

The government, however, says the impact of the decision is expected to be limited because only a small number of small businesses would open on Christmas Day anyway.

“Our estimation is around 4 to 4.5 percent of all small business … are expected to open or consider opening,” Dalidakis told the ABC.

Piper says if the minister has suggested around 5% of businesses are planning on opening, Ai Group don’t have another figure in mind in terms of how many SMEs will be operating on the 25th.

Some workers have been telling the government that the decision makes them more likely to agree to work on the day. Employees do not have to work on a public holiday unless their employer can request they attend “on reasonable grounds”.

“I have to work on Xmas day and not even triple pay would make me stay away from my family on such a special day,” one Victorian wrote to the government via Facebook.

Business groups remain concerned about what the holiday means for future decisions around public holidays in the state.

“This brings us into line with other states – but the government just seems to be doing it willy-nilly ,” Piper says, saying the removal of the Grand Final Eve public holiday would have been “a more sensible option” than doubling up this year.

Christmas Public Holidays around the nation:

Australian Capital Territory

  • Sunday, December 25 – Christmas Day
  • Monday, December 26 – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday, December 27 – Additional day as Christmas falls on a weekend

New South Wales

  • Sunday, December 25 – Christmas Day
  • Monday, December 26 – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday, December 27 – Additional day as Christmas falls on a weekend

Northern Territory

  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday 27 December – Additional Day for Christmas Day


  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday 27 December – Additional Day for Christmas Day

South Australia

  • Saturday 24 December – Christmas Eve, from 7pm until midnight
  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Christmas Day holiday
  • Tuesday 27 December – Boxing Day / Proclamation Day


  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday 27 December – Christmas Day additional holiday


  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday 27 December – Christmas Day additional holiday

Western Australia

  • Sunday 25 December – Christmas Day
  • Monday 26 December – Boxing Day
  • Tuesday 27 December – Additional day for Christmas Day



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Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
5 years ago

How many sleepless nights do the minds that work out all these rules enjoy.
Did they really have to tell us Christmas Day is a Public Holiday?
And I see that the 27th is marked as an additional day for Christmas whatever that might mean.
To anyone reading all these rules for the first time, it would be fair to assume that employers are out to diddle employees at every opportunity. I reckon 95% of employees are only looking for diligent inclusive workers and then there are the 5% who would pull every string they can to keep their wage bill down.
A lot of employers I presume are learning from the banking industry ….. do what you like or think you can get away with …. you can always apologise and make good the shortfall and when no one is looking, do it all again.
I’m still trying to get over the fact that it took a committee to work out Christmas is a Public Holiday. Who ever would have thought?

Kayelene Connell
Kayelene Connell
5 years ago

It sounds like the correct situation is that the Victorian State Government has approved both the 25th December (Christmas Day) and the 27th December 2016 in addition as public holidays (not the 28th)?

Eloise Keating
Eloise Keating
5 years ago

Hi Kayelene. Yes, that’s correct. The article originally said the 28th, however, that was incorrect. We’ve updated the article. Thanks, Eloise

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