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Legal matters

Fair Work Australia rules out standardised holidays

By Michelle Hammond
Friday, 03 December 2010

A ruling by Fair Work Australia means employers will be forced to “double dip” and award penalty rates for multiple public holidays this Christmas.


The decision by FWA not to harmonise public holiday rates across all states and territories means employees in Victoria and South Australia who are forced to work on Christmas Day will go without extra pay.


Meanwhile, employers in some of the other states will be forced to pay penalty rates up to six times for three major public holidays.


Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout says the decision will increase the costs for many employers who need to operate over the Christmas and New Year period.


“The clause has been in the award system for many years and had the effect of preventing double dipping of public holiday penalties when Christmas/New Year holidays fell on a weekend and additional days were proclaimed,” Ridout says.


“We had argued that public holiday penalty rates should only be paid on three public holidays –

Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years Day – not up to six days where both the original day and an alternative day were proclaimed as a holiday.”


“The effect of the FWA ruling means that public holiday penalties will be payable on all days which have been proclaimed as public holidays in the relevant state or territory.”


The decision also means that the chaos and confusion over public holidays will continue, with the onus on each state and territory to decide whether to award additional or substitute holidays.


However, Ridout is pleased the FWA rejected a series of union claims for higher penalties for those who work on December 25.


“The FWA decision increases the importance of state and territory governments agreeing on a consistent and fair approach when proclaiming public holidays,” she says.


“It is extremely unfortunate that so many different approaches have been taken this year, creating widespread confusion and uncertainty.”

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