The Queensland Government has implemented a part-day public holiday from 6pm to midnight on Christmas Eve. What does this mean for you & your business?
Declaring a public holiday from 6pm will provide employees with the right to be absent from work on that part of the day and have the right to reasonably refuse to work. The right to refuse work is not an industrial relations entitlement under state or federal legislation for any day other than a public holiday.
Impact on workers
Workers, such as essential services personnel, retail staff and shop employees who work after 6pm on Christmas Eve will receive the benefits of penalty rates as per the applicable award or agreement. Under most awards, those who work on public holidays are entitled to a penalty rate which is usually 150% of the base wage.
As such, employees are entitled to be paid at 2.5 times their normal rate whilst casual employees usually receive their casual loading and penalty rates. There is the possibility that some casual and part-time workers may lose income because of a loss of working hours if their employer decides not to open as a consequence of increased wages costs.
Impact on employers and business owners
Business owners who choose to open and trade after 6pm on Christmas Eve will have to cover the higher wage costs of their employees. With hospitality and small to medium sized business sector likely to be most affected, these businesses are already subject to modern awards such as the Fast Food Industry Award 2010 and the General Retail Award 2010, which specify the penalty rates that apply.
Other business owners have the choice to levy a surcharge on customers to cover costs of increased wages. Alternatively, a business can choose to not stay open after 6pm on Christmas Eve.
What is the cost for employers?
Based on the number of employees who worked on Christmas Day in 2011, the estimated extra wages could cost Queensland industry anywhere between $41.3 million and $410.7 million in employment costs alone, not including the cost to businesses that choose to close instead.
Businesses in the areas of manufacturing, health, transport, aviation, emergency services, energy, IT, maintenance services, telecommunications and accommodation require to operate on a 24-hour cycle in order to meet their customer’s demands. These businesses had little to no opportunity to prepare and budget extra costs that impact on business operations on one of the busiest trading days of the year.
However, the government predicts that the part-day public holiday on Christmas Eve will pay for itself in the increase in consumer spending at post-Christmas sales due to increased wages and happiness within the workforce.
Harry McDonald is a solicitor admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Queensland, practising in the Commercial and Property Law team at Greenhalgh Pickard Solicitors. Within commercial law, Harry has a keen interest in employment law and enjoys assisting commercial clients in all areas of their employment & industrial relations with experience in employment contracts, sub-contractor agreements, restraint clauses, unfair dismissals, general protections, workplace policies and guidelines and general HR advice.
The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only and is based on the law as of the date of publication. It is not, nor is intended to be legal advice. If you wish to take any action based on the content of this publication we recommend that you seek professional advice.