Operating a business on a public holiday in Australia can present a unique set of challenges and opportunities, but it is vital you understand the different regulations and requirements that accompany different public holidays, including specific pay entitlements for your employees. It’s important to research the specific regulations for the state in which your business operates and ensure that you comply with these requirements. Failure to do so can result in fines and legal penalties.
Each state does not allow non-exempt business to open on Good Friday, Christmas Day and Anzac Day before 1pm. However, each state enforces different restrictions and exemptions.
All states recognise the following as public holidays:
- New Year’s Day
- Australia Day
- Easter Sunday
- Easter Monday
- King’s Birthday (previously Queen’s Birthday)
- Boxing Day
In Queensland, exemptions may apply for certain types of businesses such as hospitals, pharmacies, and airport operations.
Queensland holds additional public holidays for Labour Day, the Royal Queensland show for the Brisbane area, and local show holidays that vary between jurisdictions. Queensland recognises Christmas Eve from 6pm onwards as a public holiday, entitling those who work in that time to public holiday pay. The state also observes the first Monday of May and October as a public holiday.
However, it’s important to note that some local councils may have further restrictions on trading hours on public holidays, so it’s advisable to check with the relevant authorities for specific restrictions in your area. The state also has an extensive list of exempt stores and their trading hour restrictions that can be found on the Business Queensland website.
New South Wales
Following the Retail Trading Act 2008 legislation, New South Wales follows the same exempt public holidays ruling as Queensland, with exemption to business such as chemists, fruit and vegetable stores, petrol stations and small shops. Businesses also have the option of applying and obtaining exemption from the New South Wales government website.
Victoria follows a similar public holiday calendar to Queensland, with the addition of a public holiday on Melbourne Cup day, and on the Friday before the AFL grand final, which is subject to the AFL season schedule.
The Victorian Government permits certain business exemption from restricted trading days, allowing them to operate any day of the year, including aforementioned chemists and petrol stations, as well as restaurants and cafes and store offering takeaway and hiring such as video stores.
Exemption also applies for businesses with 20 or less employees working on restricted trade days, and the number of persons employed is less than 100 seven days before the restricted trading day.
The state follows the same days as Queensland with the addition of a Western Australia Day public holiday. The hours of operation in the state for holidays are 11am – 5pm, and 8am – 6pm for WA day, Easter Monday and King’s Birthday. Exempt, or “special” stores in WA that are allowed to trade from 8am – 11pm every day of the year. Businesses wishing to trade as a special retail store can apply for a certificate to allow them exemption. A full list of special stores can be found the Western Australia Government’s website.
South Australia has Adelaide Cup Day as an additional holiday, as well as Christmas Eve and New Years Eve being considered public holidays from 7pm – 12am. This means hours worked during these times are entitled to public holiday pay and remains the case even if these dates fall on a Saturday or Sunday. This regulation does not affect trading hours.
Tasmania holds additional public holidays for Royal Hobart Regatta for areas that observe it and Recreation Day later in the year for those that didn’t observe, Eight Hours Day and Easter Tuesday for public services. On Anzac Day, businesses cannot operate until after 12:30pm and must have written consent from their employees to work on the day.
Additional holidays for the Northern Territory are May Day and Picnic Day. The state also follows the same Christmas Eve and New Years Eve holiday structure as South Australia.
Public Holiday pay rates
Public holiday pay for employees in Australia is governed by the Fair Work Act and includes a higher rate known as a public holiday penalty rate. The specific pay increase and entitlements can vary depending on the industry and the terms of the employee’s award or agreement. If you are a business owner, it is essential that you are familiar with these so that your employees are paid the correct rate and that you meet other public holiday entitlements, such as time off in lieu.
A full list of each state’s 2023 public holidays dates can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman website, and state specific ones on each state’s respective government website. If you have any questions around the legal requirements of public holidays in Australia, please do not hesitate to contact our sister company, Legal Kitz to assist you. To arrange a FREE 30 minute consultation with one of their highly experienced solicitors, click here today. Additionally, you can also check out our Business Kitz Subscription to access our full range of legal, commercial and employment document templates to begin your business with a solid foundation that ensures compliance.