Making a list and checking it twice – 4 employee entitlements to check this x-mas

23 November 2018

With Jingle Bells playing and extra staff hired, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!    

But before you swap your business hat for reindeer ears, we spoke to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to find out what employee entitlements, employers need to check before their Christmas rush begins.

1. Pay rates on public holidays

With all the flurry of hiring staff, inducting them and hanging last year’s Christmas decorations, you might have forgotten to check which days are public holidays in your state and territory. It's important to know this because your staff may get different entitlements on these days.

Whether your employees are hired as full-time, part-time or casual staff their pay rates may also change for public holidays depending on what your industry’s award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement is. To check award rates, allowances and penalty rates (including overtime) use the FWO’s Pay Calculator.

To see all state and territory public holidays, take a look at the FWO List of public holidays webpage.  

2. Breaks - rest, lunch and between shifts

Suddenly there’s a line out the door and your staff have been inundated by customers – it’s the dreaded lunch time rush! While great for your business, this scene tends to occur when staff are required to have their break. So, how do you make sure all your staff get their rest and meal breaks too?

One simple way is to have a 5 minute catch up each morning to agree on a rest and lunch break roster. This way you can stagger staff breaks and ensure no one is forgotten and your business shop floor remains properly staffed all day.

You can check award rules for breaks (paid and unpaid) by choosing your industry from the list on FWO’s Breaks webpage.

3. Working or (not working) on public holidays

Did you know that employees have the right to be absent from work on a day, or part day, that is a public holiday?

If you’ve made the decision to open your business on a public holiday, as a business owner, you’re allowed to ask your employees to work, if the request is reasonable. Your employees are however allowed 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, (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 that they refuse to work.

If your employees do agree to work on a public holiday, they should be 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.

To find information on employee entitlements visit the FWO’s Working on public holidays webpage.

4. When overtime applies

To accommodate nine to five workers this holiday season you’ve decided to extend your businesses’ opening hours.

While the extra hours are great for sales targets, you’ll need to double check whether overtime applies for your staff.

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

To find award information on employee overtime work entitlements, use the FWO industry tool on their When overtime applies webpage.

Need more help?

For the latest updates and information about Australian workplace laws and requirements, visit the FWO Small Business Showcase where you will find all workplace law information, tools and resources for small business.

To receive regular updates and information about workplace laws and requirements, follow the FWO on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.