Christmas public holidays: Your guide to retail trading this festive season

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It’s that time of the year once again. Christmas trees are going up, families are posing for their annual photos with Santa at the local shopping centre, and employees are counting down the days until they can set their out-of-office holiday email reply

Business owners are no doubt turning at least some of their attention to the upcoming raft of public holidays and the varying trading rules that apply in each of Australia’s states and territories during the festive season. This is an important time of the year for retail and hospitality businesses to stay on top of their obligations to employees, but businesses in other sectors also need to know when they can trade and when they need to pay their staff penalty rates

We’ve pulled together a quick state-by-state guide to Christmas and New Year trading hours and restrictions for Australian businesses for 2019-2020. 

Victoria

Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday this year and Boxing Day is on a Thursday. Both days are public holidays in Victoria. 

New Year’s Day, January 1, also falls on a Wednesday and is 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

Wednesday, December 25, and Thursday, December 26, are also public holidays in New South Wales, as is New Year’s Day on Wednesday, January 1, 2020. 

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. 

Further details about trading exemptions in NSW are available from NSW Fair Trading here

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. 

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are designated public holidays in the ACT, as is January 1, 2020. 

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 and New Year’s Day this festive season. 

For the first time this year, Christmas Eve will also be classified as a part-day public holiday across the state. This means businesses operating on the evening on Tuesday, 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, December 26, 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. 

South Australians also observe a public holiday on December 25 for Christmas Day, December 26 for Proclamation Day, and 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 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 and 26 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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