Legal check: ensuring your employees receive their entitlements this Easter

by Chloe Taylor02 Apr 2015
The Fair Work Ombudsman has warned employers to make themselves aware of their obligations to workers this Easter – whether employees are working or taking the holidays off.

With at least two public holidays looming (depending on your state or territory), it is vital to check what employees are owed.
Good Friday (April 3) and Easter Monday (April 6) are national public holidays, with some states and territories also declaring Easter Saturday or Sunday as public holidays.

Entitlements

According to the FWO, awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements can provide entitlements for employees who work on the upcoming public holidays. These could include:
  • extra pay
  • an extra day off or extra annual leave
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day
Do employees have to work on public holidays?

An employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday, given that the request is reasonable. However, the employee is entitled to refuse a request to work if they have reasonable grounds.

The following need to be taken into account when deciding if a request is reasonable:
  • the employee's personal circumstances, such as family responsibilities
  • whether the employee will get more pay
  • the needs of the workplace
  • the type of work the employee does
  • whether the employee's salary includes work on a public holiday
  • whether the employee is full-time, part-time, casual or a shift worker
  • how much notice the employee was given about working
  • the amount of notice the employee gives that they refuse to work
If a non-casual employee would normally work on the day of the public holiday, they are entitled to their base pay rate for their ordinary hours if the employer chooses to close the workplace for the holiday.

The importance of being aware

“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s experience is that the large majority of employers want to do the right thing by their employees and most non-compliance is actually inadvertent,” an FWO spokesperson told HC. “The majority of mistakes which occur are due to a lack of awareness of workplace laws, rather than employers deliberately doing the wrong thing.”
 
The spokesperson added that a common inadvertent error made by employers who aren’t fully aware of their workplace obligations is underpaying penalty rates.

“We recognise that errors happen, so we have a flexible and fair approach when mistakes occur,” they said. “Employers also need to be aware that small errors can result in significant underpayments if they’re left unchecked for an extended period of time, so it’s important that employers who are unsure about their obligations contact the Fair Work Ombudsman or check with their industry association.”

Obligations can vary between industries, so employers are advised to check their industry-specific requirements to avoid mistakes.

Public holidays over Easter by state or territory

Australian Capital Territory: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Monday 6

New South Wales: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Sunday 5, Monday 6

Northern Territory: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Monday 6

Queensland: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Monday 6

South Australia: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Monday 6

Tasmania: Friday 3, Monday 6, Tuesday 7 (only applies under certain awards or registered agreements and to the state public service)

Victoria: Friday 3, Saturday 4, Sunday 5, Monday 6

Western Australia: Friday 3, Monday 6
 
 

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