Christmas holidays: What you need to know

Many employees who are asked to work extra hours are entitled to overtime rates under an award or agreement

Christmas holidays: What you need to know

by Amber Chandler, Partner, Barker Henley

With the Christmas and New Year holiday period upon us, it is important to keep in mind the following in relation to paying your employees for the hours they are working:

  1. Longer hours:
    An employer can ask an employee to work reasonable overtime hours. However, it is important as an employer to know what is considered reasonable and this must take into account business needs, the employee’s personal commitments, how much notice you give the employee when you ask them and what the contract of employment actually says. Also, many employees who are asked to work extra hours are entitled to overtime rates under an award or agreement, so it is very important to check the relevant instrument when paying them.
  2. Breaks:
    If an employee is not given a break in their shift in line with the relevant award, then they may be entitled to overtime rates.
  3. Public holidays:
    This year, these are the following public holidays across Australia:
  • Christmas Day – Wednesday 25 December 2019
  • Boxing Day – Thursday 26 December 2019
  • New Year’s Day – Wednesday 1 January 2020.

South Australia and Northern Territory also has part-day public holidays from 7pm to midnight on:

  • Christmas Eve – Tuesday 24 December 2019
  • New Year’s Eve – Tuesday 31 December 2019.

Queensland also has part-day public holidays from 6pm to midnight on:

  • Christmas Eve – Tuesday 24 December 2019
  • An employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday as long as this is considered a reasonable request. An employee may refuse if they have reasonable grounds not to work. Check the award or agreement as to whether penalty rates or alternate days off must be given to an employee who does work a public holiday.
  • If the employee doesn’t work a public holiday, but if that public holiday falls on a day they usually work, the employee should be paid their base rate for their usual hours.
  • Also, if there is a public holiday within a period that the employee has taken annual leave, that public holiday does not come out of their leave balance.

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