'Tis the season… to check staff entitlements

A city shopping district with Christmas decorations and lots of people out shopping.

Spreading the Christmas cheer: Many workers look forward to extra shifts leading up to and during the festive season so they can take home extra pay.

This story was first published on Wednesday 12 December 2018. If you wish to use this content, please contact media@dese.gov.au to confirm that the information is still current.

Christmas often means extra work, especially for staff in the retail and hospitality sectors, and many look forward to a bit more in their pay as a result. Employers are encouraged to make sure their staff are receiving all their entitlements and sharing in the Christmas cheer.

Pay rates on public holidays

In all the flurry of on-boarding new staff, updating rosters and hanging the Christmas decorations, employers need to make sure they make time to check pay rates, too.

Public holidays can differ depending on the state and territory.

Whether staff are full-time, part-time or casual, pay rates may change on public holidays depending on the relevant industry award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement.

If in doubt, employers can check award penalty rates using the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay Calculator.

Breaks - rest, lunch and between shifts

Christmas is a hectic time for many businesses. While this can be great for business, often the most hectic periods can coincide with when staff are due to have their break.

How can employers make sure all staff get their required rest and meal breaks?

One simple piece of advice is for employers to arrange a five-minute catch up each morning to agree on a rest and lunch break roster. This way, breaks can be staggered and no one will be forgotten, while the business remains properly staffed all day.

Read more at Breaks on the FWO’s website.

Working (or not working) on public holidays

Employees have the right to be absent from work on a day, or part day, that is a public holiday.

Employers who decide to keep their business open on public holidays are allowed to ask employees to work, as long as the request is reasonable. Employees are allowed to refuse a request to work if they have reasonable grounds.

Employers should consider these things when deciding if a request is reasonable:

  • the employee's personal circumstances (e.g. family responsibilities)
  • whether the employee will get more pay (e.g. penalty rates)
  • 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 if they refuse the request.

When employees do agree to work on a public holiday, employers should make sure they are paid at least their base pay rate for all hours worked. Many awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements also provide additional entitlements for public holidays, including:

  • extra pay (e.g. public holiday rates)
  • an extra day off or extra annual leave
  • minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  • agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day.

Read more at Working on public holidays.

When overtime applies

For businesses that extend their hours over the holiday season, they will need to check if overtime applies to their staff.

The rules about when overtime applies and how much staff should be paid are set by award or enterprise agreements.

Employers can check award overtime entitlements by selecting their industry on the FWO’s When overtime applies page.

Further information

For the latest updates and information about Australian workplace laws and requirements, visit the FWO Small Business Showcase.

For regular updates and information about workplace laws and requirements, follow the FWO on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Correct at time of publication.