Business planning

Your guide to Christmas and New Year public holidays and trading hours

By Patrick Stafford
Friday, 21 December 2012

It’s Christmas time – and that means confusion over public holidays.


With the states and territories each having their own laws when it comes to public holidays and their subsequent restrictions, businesses constantly need a refresher on whether they can open on Christmas or Boxing Day.


Thankfully this year isn’t as complicated as the last few, when Christmas Day or Boxing Day fell on weekends. Businesses were in an uproar about states giving out additional public holidays, and thus forcing companies to pay an extra day’s worth of penalty rates.


Everything’s a little clearer this year – but you still need to make sure you have all your scheduling right.


Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s Christmas-New Year public holiday season.




Christmas Day and Boxing Day are both public holidays in Victoria, along with New Year’s Day. All normal public holiday rates apply for anyone working.


Only Christmas Day is a restricted day, on which exempt shops are permitted to open. To be exempt, you must have 20 or fewer persons employed in the shop at any time on the restricted trading day, and the number of persons employed by the business is no more than 100 at any time in the week before the actual restricted day.


There are some exemptions to this, including chemists, petrol shops, restaurants, cafes, takeaway outlets, “service providers” and hire outlets, such as video stores.


New South Wales


Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are all public holidays. Both Christmas Day and Boxing Day are restricted trading days, which have their own rules – you can check them out here. There are some exemptions for small businesses.


New Year’s Day isn’t a restricted trading day.




Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are all public holidays in Queensland, but there are some key trading restrictions.


Christmas and New Year trading has special laws covering the 18th to the 24th. You can read those here, as there are some key rules you’ll need to know about as a small business.


On Christmas Day specifically, all non-exempt shops will be closed. You can find out if you’re an exempt or non-exempt shop here, although to be sure you should check with your local government business authority.


Mostly, exempt shops are those that predominantly sell goods by retail. Trading hours of exempt shops are totally unrestricted.


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The ACT recognises Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day as public holidays. Trading is deregulated in the ACT, so businesses can choose if they want to open. Most do not.


Northern Territory


Like the other states, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are all public holidays in the Northern Territory. Trading hours are mostly deregulated for stores except for some which sell liquor.


Western Australia


Western Australia observes all three public holidays, but the trading hours are some of the most complicated in the country.


General retail shops must remain closed on Christmas Day. Any general retail shop is one classified under categories including small shops, special retail, service stations or motor vehicle. You can look up definitions for all those stores here.


South Australia


South Australia observes all three major days as public holidays, except that Boxing Day is called Proclamation Day.


South Australia’s trading laws have changed this year. Although “non-exempt shops” such as supermarkets and department stores cannot open on public holidays, along with January 1, some speciality shops can trade.


The major change is that city stores will be able to open from 11am to 5pm on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Stores will also be able to open from 9am on December 23.


All traders will be able to stay open until midnight tonight, December 21.


The other big change is that certain times have been designated as public holidays: between 7pm and midnight on Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve. Staff working those times will need to be paid higher penalty rates.




Tasmanian law notes Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are all public holidays. Shops must be closed on Christmas Day, but shops can open on the other days.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.


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