Your Rights On Public Holidays

Public holidays are an important chance to take time for yourself, your family, or to look after your needs outside of work.

Just like sick leave, holiday pay, the 8 hour day and the weekend, public holidays didn’t just happen on their own – these things were all created by unions! Union workers in Australia and around the world fought and in some cases even died for your rights at work – including public holidays.

So make sure you use your public holidays when you can! You are entitled to them and they are for you.

Many companies like to mislead workers about their rights on public holidays. Don’t let bosses push you around! Check out your rights when it comes to public holidays, and always remember to stand strong with your fellow workers.

Do I have to work on a public holiday?

Permanent employees (full time and part time) have the right to refuse to work on a public holiday.

Section 114 of the Fair Work Act 2009 means you are “entitled to be absent” on a public holiday.

While your boss may ask you to work on a public holiday, you are entitled to refuse if the request is unreasonable.

You may of course choose to work on a public holiday and earn additional penalty rates if you wish, but you cannot be forced to do it.

Will I get paid if I refuse to work?

Permanent employees (full time and part time) must be paid (at their base rate) if they would normally have been rostered on that day.

Section 116 of the Fair Work Act 2009 says that “the employer must pay the employee” as if they had worked that day.

Casual workers do not have this right. They will not receive any pay if they do not work on a public holiday.

What if a public holiday falls on my Rostered Day Off (RDO)?

It’s not fair when you’re supposed to have the day off work anyway, and then a public holiday comes along and messes it up.

The majority of union-negotiated agreements will provide workers with time in lieu when this happens.

If your worksite doesn’t have a union agreement, it will be covered by the Meat Industry Award (the minimum wage) instead. The Meat Industry Award does not provide this kind of compensation.

Union workers on average earn an incredible 25% more than non-union workers across Australia. But it’s not just about pay – it’s about things like public holidays, flexibility, and everything else that makes your life so much better outside of work.

If you’d like to negotiate a union agreement for your workplace, the first step is to join the union. You can do that online here.

Who can I talk to?

Union members can call the AMIEU Newcastle office at any time for advice and support on (02) 4929 5496.