Staff public holiday penalty rates and entitlements

Payroll can get very tricky and confusing but it gets even more complex when you consider public holiday pay rates. Public holidays are part of Australia’s employment standards and workers have the right to be absent from work during these days. If your staff work on these days, you should know the public holiday penalty rates and other entitlements your staff should receive based on the awards under which they belong.


Business owners should be mindful of the national and state public holidays as well as the “substitute” public holiday which is the ordinary day following a public holiday that attracts the penalty rate. This occurs when a public holiday falls on a weekend and the next working day becomes the ‘substitute’ holiday. Employees who work on the ‘substitute’ public holiday will receive the same entitlements for working on a public holiday.

Remember that employees are not required to come in on a public holiday, but employers can request their staff to work on that day, however they must also respect the workers’ right to refuse to come in especially if they have good reasons for doing so.

Staff entitlements vary based on employee awards and agreements with their employers. Except for casual staff, workers who are absent on a public holiday will receive pay for the usual work hours. If the public holiday is on an employee’s rest day, he will not be entitled to holiday pay. Owners are discouraged from temporarily changing rosters just to avoid paying the penalty rate.

Employees who are asked to come in on a public holiday will receive a regular base pay with public holiday pay rates depending on the award or agreement. Public holiday pay rates are different but in the hospitality industry it is 225% for both full-time and part-time employees and 250% for casuals under the fast food, restaurant and hospitality awards.

Staff coming in on a public holiday may receive alternative entitlements in lieu of the penalty rate. Full or part-time staff may receive a 25% loading on their base pay and a paid day off added to their annual leave. The day off can be taken during the week of the holiday or within 28 days after it. They can also have minimum shifts spread across regular and public holiday working days and choose to come in for a minimum number of hours for an agreed number of days and be paid a full shift every time.

Work with a bookkeeper to get your payroll sorted, especially on the issue of public holidays, stay compliant to Fair Work regulations and know your public holiday costs.

As you look for different ways to grow and improve your business, seeking professional advice from a business accountant and consultant could prove to be an important and helpful decision.

You can click here to speak to business experts. We would love to help you formulate investment strategies and streamline your processes to take your business to the next level.  Our goal is to help you grow your business, find ways to invest more and increase your productivity.

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