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Leading employment lawyers at Slater and Gordon have warned shift workers to double check their pay slips this Easter long weekend.

Workers are being urged to keep a close eye on their pay packets, with some confusion around the new penalty rate cuts and which days are gazetted public holidays.

Slater and Gordon Principal Employment Lawyer Aron Neilson said employees should remember that it is against the law for their bosses to shortchange them on penalty rates.

“This Easter long weekend is the first lot of public holidays since the Fair Work Commission announced penalty rate cuts to workers in the hospitality, fast food, restaurant, retail and pharmacy industries, so we’re expecting some confusion among employees and employers,” Mr Neilson said.

Some important things to remember are:

  • Cuts to public holiday penalty rates not due to come into effect until 1 July 2017, so it would be illegal for any employers to reduce their workers’ pay this Easter.
  • Dates for Sunday penalty rate cuts are not expected to be finalised until a hearing in May.
  • Cuts that have already come into effect are changes to loading penalties, which affect workers in the restaurant and fast food industries working overnight shifts.

Under the changes:

  • Restaurant workers will only be paid an extra 15 per cent on shifts between midnight and 6am (previously midnight to 7am).
  • Fast food workers only get an extra 10 per cent per hour between 10pm and midnight (previously 9pm to midnight).

“Given the different implementation dates, workers should double check they’ve been paid correctly and if their calculations don’t match their pay slip, they should raise it with their boss.”

Mr Neilson said the days which attract public holiday penalty rates differ from state to state.

  • Good Friday and Easter Monday are the only two national public holidays guaranteed by the National Employment Standards in every state and territory across the Easter long weekend.
  • Easter Saturday attracts public holiday rates everywhere except WA and Tasmania, while Easter Sunday is only a gazetted public holiday in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.

“If Easter Saturday or Sunday are not recognised as public holidays in your state, weekend penalty rates will still apply and you should double check you are being paid correctly,” Mr Neilson said.

What should I do if I’m underpaid?

Mr Neilson said workers should remember they have rights, regardless of whether they are permanent or casual employees.

“The employment watchdog investigates around a thousand complaints of unpaid penalty rates every year, but there would be many more workers who stay silent,” Mr Neilson said.

“It can be incredibly intimidating to stand up to an employer and ask them to do the right thing, especially when it relates to money, but remember it is a breach of the Fair Work Act for them to sack you or stop rostering you for shifts because you raised a concern about your wages.

“It is even illegal for your boss to threaten to take any of these steps, so if you think you’re not being paid all of your entitlements or you’re being treated unfairly, it’s important to raise the matter with your union or get legal advice so you’re not on your own.”