Unilever allows 'interchangeable' public holidays

Policy gaining traction in Australia as divisive national holiday nears

Unilever allows 'interchangeable' public holidays

Unilever NZ and Australia is allowing employees to exchange public holidays for other dates that are more relevant to them.

This is part of the manufacturing company's "interchangeable" holiday policy that was first introduced in 2021.

"This means that if our employees would prefer to work on a public holiday, they can exchange this day for one of the many other days of cultural significance throughout the year that isn't already a public holiday," said Shruti Ganeriwala, head of HR at Unilever Australia and New Zealand, as quoted by NewsHub.

"We want Unilever to be a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace for all. To do this, it's essential our policies and workforce are representative and supportive of the many rich cultures and identities that make up Australia and New Zealand."

Unilever also provides employees equal parental leave opportunities, support for employees going through gender affirmation journeys, and unisex bathrooms, according to Ganeriwala, as reported by NewsHub.

Most recently, the manufacturer expanded its four-day work week policy in Australia after seeing success with its New Zealand pilot run.

Transferring public holidays

The interchangeable holiday policy is in line with New Zealand's rules that permit employers and employees to transfer a public holiday by agreement.

"The agreement between an employer and employee of a public holiday being observed on another day can be in the employment agreement but doesn’t have to be," Employment NZ said on its website.

"It must be in writing. The transfer of observance of the public holiday might be for business reasons or to meet the individual needs of an employee."

Employers are also allowed to have a workplace policy that prohibit employees from making such requests, according to the government.

"As part of their good faith obligations, an employer should consult with their employees on the development of this policy," it said.

Controversial rule

Interchangeable holiday policies have been in the spotlight lately as Australia anticipates the controversial Australia Day on January 26.

Employers including the University of Wollongong, Ten Network, Telstra, BHP, KPMG Australia, and Woodside Energy have introduced policies to allow staff to work on Australia Day and choose another day when they can take a day off.

However, this move has been slammed by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who claimed "woke CEOs" are "playing politics through their businesses."

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, on the other hand, expressed support to employers who allowed the public holiday to be switched.

"It's up to each of the departments, like it's up to employers in other areas as well," he said in an interview

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