This year Australia Day falls on a Sunday, however the 27th is the Public Holiday.
Many in the community believe that Industrial Awards somehow ‘create’ Public Holidays, they don’t’; their function is prescribing employee entitlements when a Public Holiday occurs.
To explain, an employee engaged on a weekly basis (either full-time, part-time or fixed-term/seasonal), rostered to work on Sunday the 26th of January is not entitled to Public Holiday penalties, only to their normal penalty for working on a Sunday (by way of example, under the Fitness Industry Award 2010, to time and a half), whereas if they work the next day , the declared Public Holiday,( again under that particular award), they are entitled to double time and a half, with a minimum payment as for four hours worked.
Concurrently, employees taking either annual or other ‘paid’ leave are entitled to be re-credited for each Public Holiday that falls on days they would otherwise have been rostered to work ordinary hours, if it wasn’t for the fact that they were absent on leave.
Public holidays are ‘created’ (declared) by legislators, either State, Territory and in some instances, federally. In the case under consideration (Australia Day) all jurisdictions have acted in dealing with the matter in the same fashion. However, confusion arises when some jurisdictions observe the actual day, while others either declare a day in substitution or less commonly an additional public holiday(s) (this happen recently when Christmas/New Year straddled a weekend).
To further complicate matters, some modern awards prescribe common penalty rates/loadings for casuals working weekends or Public Holidays (citing again the Fitness Industry Award – casuals are paid a loading of thirty percent for working either Saturday, Sunday or a Public Holiday). Moreover, staff engaged under the terms of an Enterprise Agreement, may find that the ‘entitlement to discreet penalty payments may have been modified due to ‘bargaining outcomes’.
Given all of the above considerations, it is in the interests of all employers that they seek the earliest confirmation possible of the status of upcoming holidays (a good point of reference is the Fair Work Ombudsman website http://www.fairwork.gov.au ).