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Working on public holidays

When you work as a permanent employee of an organisation (that is, you have set days that you work), it is your right not to work on public holidays (under Commonwealth Workplace Relations law).
An employer may ask an employee to work on public holidays, however if the worker refuses to work on reasonable grounds, the employer may not threaten the worker with dismissal, or prejudice their job in any other way. Serious penalties can apply for such behaviour.

The Workplace Relations Act 1996 sets out a number of guidelines for ‘reasonable grounds’ for refusal to work on a public holiday. The following should be considered:

  • the nature of the work
  • the type of employment
  • the worker’s personal circumstances
  • the amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the worker in refusing the request
  • the amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the employer when making the request
  • the nature of the employer’s workplace or enterprise
  • whether the worker has acknowledged or could reasonably expect the employer might require work on public holidays, or particular public holidays

You’ll often find that when you work in a retail job (as many young people do,) if the public holiday falls on your rostered day on, you will be asked to work. If so, often your employer will allow a rostered day off in that same week to compensate for the day you worked.

Which public holidays are protected?

  • 1 January (New Year’s Day)
  • 26 January (Australia Day)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • 25 April (Anzac Day)
  • 25 December (Christmas Day)
  • 26 December (Boxing Day)