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Confusion surrounding public holiday provisions for the Queen’s Birthday holiday

Friday, 7 June 2013 | By Cara Waters

The majority of Australians are preparing today for a long weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday, with a public holiday scheduled in most states and territories for Monday, June 10.


The exception is Western Australia where the state doesn’t celebrate the Queen’s Birthday with a public holiday until October 1.


Confusingly, Western Australia had a public holiday this week instead on Monday, June 4 known as Foundation Day.


According to Fair Work Australia, national public holidays are scheduled on New Year’s Day (January 1), Australia Day (January 26), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day (April 25), Queen’s Birthday, Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26).


States and territories then have their own additional public holidays, like Victoria’s Melbourne Cup holiday.


Of the national holidays, the dates for Good Friday and Easter Monday change each year, however the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is the only holiday with no specific fixed date.


Instead, it is to be taken "on the day on which it is celebrated in a state or territory or a region of a state or territory".


Confusion around public holidays continues to be a problem for small businesses, particularly those which operate across the country.


Daniel Mammone, director of workplace policy and legal affairs at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told SmartCompany public holidays could be unclear when they fall on a weekend and then an additional day off is prescribed.


“The problem is prescribing additional days for the one public holiday, but I don’t think that has occurred this time,” Mammone says.


Businesses which open on public holidays such as the Queen’s Birthday holiday face more uncertainty as to what employees should be paid.


The Fair Work Ombudsman provides when a public holiday falls on a day an employee normally works, full- and part-time employees are entitled to be paid at their base rate of pay, not including any incentive-based payment or penalty rates.


If the request is reasonable, an employer can ask their employees to work on a public holiday and they are entitled to be paid a minimum of their base rate of pay for all hours worked on that day.


But under many awards or agreements employees may receive a penalty rate or loading for the hours they work, be provided with time off instead of payment of penalty rates or receive equivalent time added to their annual leave.


Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell told SmartCompany employers should be aware that if they have employees working over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, the employees may be entitled to receive penalty rates.


"The large majority of underpayment cases we encounter are inadvertent and are the result of employers not being fully aware of the minimum pay rates that apply to their workplace," he says.


If you do need your staff to work this Monday make sure you check on whether additional payment is required.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.