Christmas public holidays: A state-by-state guide to retail trading this festive season

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Source: Unsplash/Heidi Fin.

The countdown to Christmas has begun. There are only a few weeks before offices and business sites close for the holiday period, while others gear up for what will likely be the busiest time of the year.

This year, both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Saturdays but what vary are the public holidays and restrictions on trading hours in each state. These important details determine when businesses can open and the penalty rates many businesses are required to pay their staff.

We’ve pulled together a quick state-by-state guide to the Christmas and New Year trading hours and restrictions for Australian businesses this year.

Victoria

Christmas Day, Saturday December 25, and Boxing Day, Sunday December 26, are both public holidays in Victoria.  There are also additional public holidays on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28 to make up for Christmas and Boxing Day falling on the weekend.

New Year’s Day, Saturday, January 1, is also a public holiday.

Businesses are generally not allowed to open on Christmas Day, unless they fit into an exemption category. This includes shops that have 20 or fewer persons employed at any time, and businesses that have no more than 100 employees at any time during the seven days prior to Christmas.

There are some Victorian businesses that are able to trade whenever they want. These include chemists, petrol stations, restaurants, cafes, takeaway outlets, service providers and hire outlets.

New South Wales

Saturday, December 25, and Sunday, December 26, are also public holidays in NSW, as is New Year’s Day on Saturday, January 1, 2022.

Like in Victoria, Monday, December 27 and Tuesday, December 28 are also considered public holidays this year.

NSW businesses also face trading restrictions on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, although these restrictions were relaxed in 2015-16 to allow all businesses to trade on Boxing Day if employees have freely elected to work.

Small shops are also allowed to open on Christmas Day, as are those that are located within specified exempted local government areas, and larger businesses that have successfully applied for an exemption from NSW Fair Trading. Small shops are defined as those that employ four or fewer employees and which have no more than two owners who share in the business’ profits.

Australian Capital Territory

Businesses in the Australian Capital Territory will need to observe the same public holidays as their counterparts in Victoria and NSW this holiday season.

Saturday, December 25 through to Tuesday, December 28 are designated public holidays in the ACT, as is January 1, 2021.

Trading hours are deregulated in the ACT, which means businesses can choose when to trade, however, many opt to close on Christmas Day.

Queensland

Like its southern neighbours, Queensland will also observe public holidays on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, December 27, December 28 and New Year’s Day this festive season.

Christmas Eve will also be classified as a part-day public holiday across the state. This means businesses operating in the evening on Friday, December 24, will be required to pay their staff the appropriate public holiday penalty rates between 6pm and midnight.

Trading rules across the Sunshine State are extensive and complicated, however, some retailers, including independent retail shops, are exempt from the restrictions. It is worth checking this information on the Queensland government’s website, however, as there are also special rules that apply in the weeks leading up to Christmas and in local government areas.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, December 25 to December 28 and January 1 will all be public holidays. Businesses will also need to observe part-day public holidays, between 7pm and midnight, on Christmas Eve (December 24) and New Year’s Eve (December 31).

Trading hours are mostly deregulated in the NT, although there are some conditions for certain stores that sell liquor.

South Australia

Like Queensland and the NT, Christmas Eve is considered a public holiday in South Australia between 7pm and midnight, as is New Year’s Eve between the same hours.

This year, South Australians will also have public holidays between December 25 and December 28, as well as January 1 for New Year’s Day.

In SA, some smaller and specialty shops can trade without restriction on public holidays, while others are partially restricted. There are also potential restrictions based on the shopping district in which the business is located. Large retailers, including supermarkets and department stores, face a different set of rules. Check the SafeWork SA website for more detailed information.

Tasmania

Christmas Day, Boxing Day, December 27, December 28 and New Year’s Day are all designated public holidays in Tasmania. The state’s retail trading laws restrict large retailers from opening on Christmas Day.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, public holidays are scheduled for December 25, 26, 27 and 28 this year, as well as January 1 for New Year’s Day.

Public holiday trading rules in WA are, like Queensland’s, complex, differing depending on the category of the business and the region in which it trades. Detailed information is available on the WA Commerce Department’s website.

Retail trading hours across the state are extended in the lead-up to and the immediate aftermath of Christmas. The current schedule for general retail shops in the Perth metropolitan area is available online.

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