Employers brace for 10-day public holiday and Easter break

employee rights

Thanks to the schedule of 2019 public holidays Employsure senior employment relations adviser James Houghton says working Australians have the chance to maximise their time off by being smart with their annual leave.

Since Good Friday is on April 19 this year, there are only a few business days between the Easter and Anzac Day public holidays. Aussies have the potential to take 10 days off  using only a few days of annual leave.

“Chances are many employees will be taking advantage of the public holidays and bolting-on annual leave to maximise time away from work.”

While many workers rush to nab the time off, Houghton says employers are well within their rights to ask employees to follow a process of applying for annual leave, with plenty of notice, as rosters may need rearranging to cover any staff absences.

“Remind your employees to refer to the annual leave policy in your business, because it might be based on a first come, first serve basis.”

5 common misconceptions about public holidays

As usual there will be plenty of workers entitled to penalty rates this Easter. No matter what industry you’re in, and regardless of if your business is open or closed over Easter, there are a number of factors you need to consider; according to Houghton, there are five common misconceptions businesses make about public holidays and running their business:

1. “I’ll just tell my employees they need to work over Easter.”

“Don’t let your desire for an extra set of hands on a public holiday put you in a mess,” Houghton says. Public holidays form part of the National Employment Standards (NES) which protect an employee’s workplace right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday.

Houghton suggests employers look at their employees’ contract of employment, any enterprise agreement that may apply to their employment or the applicable Modern Award before asking anyone to work on a public holiday.

“It’s best practice to put the request in writing outlining the hours of work and other conditions such as the rate of pay and penalty rates if applicable, he says.

“Remember, an employee may have the right to refuse to work if they can establish reasonable grounds such as family responsibilities or a short notice period.”

2. “It’s easier to offer employees a day off in lieu.”

“Public holiday penalty rates are notoriously expensive for small business employers, so it’s hardly surprising that many try to strike a deal by offering employees a day off in lieu or swapping work days instead.”
Whether this puts you in breach of the Fair Work Act depends on the wording of the relevant Modern Award or enterprise agreement. However, even if the Award or agreement allows for this, you cannot force an employee to agree to take a day in lieu instead of being remunerated for working the public holiday.

3. “I pay employees above Award rates, so I’m already covered for penalty rates.”

Think you don’t need to bother paying staff penalty rates since they are already earning well over the Award rate? Guess again.

“Paying above Award rate is great, but it doesn’t automatically exempt you from paying penalty rates,” Houghton says.

When considering whether penalty rates are applicable you need to ensure that an offsetting provision is in place and that the above award component is sufficient to ensure the employee is no worse off. Penalty rates are usually spelled out in Awards and agreements.

“Penalty rates in some industries changed in 2018; so be sure to check every time,” Houghton warns.

4. “If my employees don’t work on the public holiday, I don’t have to pay them.”

Full-time and part-time employees, who normally work on the day a public holiday falls, are entitled to take the day off and be paid at least their base rate of pay for the ordinary hours they would have worked.

However, casual employees don’t get paid for public holidays, unless they work on the actual day. Houghton further adds: “you cannot alter an employee’s roster to avoid a public holiday.

5. “My employee is on paid leave overlapping Easter, so I can deduct the public holiday days from their annual leave balance.”

Many people plan to take time off to spend with family and friends over Easter. But, if an employee is on annual leave or personal leave when a public holiday falls, then the day is treated as a public holiday – not as a paid leave day.

This means, you’re still required to pay your staff their base rate of pay for the day, and the day shouldn’t be taken out of their annual or personal leave balances, according to Houghton.

“This Easter, ensure you check for the provisions of Awards or agreements which apply to your business and employees, along with contracts of employment for any terms relevant to a public holiday. If you are unsure, best to ask for professional workplace relations advice.”

Easter 2019 dates

Friday, 19 April: Good Friday (national)

Saturday, 20 April: Easter Saturday (ACT, Vic, NSW, Qld, SA, NT)

Sunday, 21 April: Easter Sunday (ACT, NSW, Qld & Vic)

Monday, 22 April: Easter Monday (national)

Tuesday, 23 April: Easter Tuesday (Tas)

Thursday, 25 April: Anzac Day (national)


Australia has one of the most difficult workplace relations systems in the world. Employsure is here to help employers navigate the complexity. Employsure is the largest provider of employment relations and work health and safety services in Australia — servicing more than 24,000 clients nationally. More than 300 advisers and consultants provide independent advice to business owners on their workplace relations and health and safety obligations. Every day Employsure gives business owners the confidence that their workplaces are safe, fair and compliant.

Partner content
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.