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It is illegal for bosses to force employees to work on public holidays, according to Slater and Gordon’s expert employment lawyers.

With five public holidays over the next week, Slater and Gordon Principal Lawyer Carita Kazakoff is reminding employees they have the right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday.

“It is against the law to be treated unfairly because you have exercised your right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday; this includes having your job threatened, or losing shifts if employed on a casual basis,” Ms Kazakoff said.

“It’s also unlawful for a boss to sack you or treat you adversely for asking for your correct pay and entitlements, such as public holiday pay.”

Ms Kazakoff said an employee may be asked to work on a public holiday, and can refuse, but both the request to work and any refusal by the worker must be reasonable.

“Factors that must be taken into account in assessing reasonableness include the nature of the workplace, whether the employee is entitled to penalty rates or other entitlements, the employee’s personal circumstances and responsibilities and how much notice is given.

“If you do work on a public holiday, you’re entitled to be paid at least your usual base rate of pay. Most awards and agreements also provide for some additional benefit for people who work on a public holiday, such as additional pay, longer minimum hours or taking extra time off at a different time.

Penalty rates should be paid to most workers in industries such as hospitality, fast food, retail and health care who work on a public holiday.”

Ms Kazakoff said anyone who believed they had suffered unfair treatment after refusing to work on a public holiday should seek urgent legal advice.

Quick facts:

  • 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.

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