Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union


Working on a Public Holiday

What you need to know.

Public holidays are a great time to catch up with family and friends. For lots of us, these are precious days that we use to catch up with our loved ones and take a much needed break. But what if you get asked to work on a public holiday?

The following is some of our practical tips for how to deal with requests by your employer to work on a public holiday. NOTE: The below is based on minimum standards outlined in the Fair Work Act. You should check your Award or agreement for variations to this standard. If you’re not sure, contact the AMWU Help Desk on 1300732698.

1.    Get in early with your leave request 

If you’re planning to take some annual leave around a public holiday then get your leave requests in early. Remember, in 2017, lots of public holidays fall on Mondays or Tuesdays so they are a great chance to take a long break without using much leave. Check out our article from January on how you can turn 20 days annual leave into 50 days off in 2017.

Also, you can find out more about your rights to request and take annual leave here.

2.    Yeah but I’m not planning to take any leave and it’s now the day before Good Friday and my boss is DEMANDING I WORK ON THE WEEKEND!!!!!!

Under the Fair Work Act your boss does have a right to make a reasonable request for you to work on a public holiday. The Act does not have hard rules about what makes a request reasonable but there a few things that need to be considered including:

-       the type of workplace you are in. Do you work in a workplace that is 24/7 operation? Would you normally expect that the factory would be operating on a public holiday? Is the kind of work that you do time critical or important to the overall economy?

-       The amount of notice given. Were you asked at 2:59pm on the day before a public holiday? Yeah that probably isn’t reasonable

-       Your entitlement to penalty rates for working on that day

 3.    I don’t know what you’re all whinging about. My roster always has me rostered on for public holidays. Suck it up!

It’s true that for many employees in our industries, working public holidays are a normal part of your roster. Aircraft mechanics still need to keep our planes in the air and newspapers still need to be printed at Easter. If you work in these kinds of time-critical industries, it’s likely that it is reasonable for your employer to request you work on a public holiday.

4.    I didn’t read any of the above and scrolled straight to the bottom. Can I say no if my employer asks me to work on a public holiday?

As an employee, you can make a reasonable refusal to both a reasonable or unreasonable  request to work on a public holiday. The Fair Work Act provides guidelines on what makes a refusal reasonable.  These include family and caring responsibilities as well as the matters listed under point 2 above.

If you have questions about your rights at work, call the AMWU HelpDesk on 1300 732 698.


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