Rostering employees on public holidays... know the expectations

By Chloe Boike, Workplace Relations Advisor 


There are at least eight public holidays each year. Are you up to date with the requirements for rostering employees during public holidays? 

Aside from casual employees, employees who would have normally worked on a day had it not been a public holiday are required to receive the base rate of pay they would have received if they had worked.  

This entitlement is enshrined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (‘FW Act’). 



Violet is a part-time employee who works four days a week (Monday-Thursday). Her employer is shutting down over the Easter long weekend.  

As Violet is not expected to work Fridays, she is not required to be paid her base rate of pay for being absent from work on Good Friday.  

However, as Violet normally works on a Monday, and her employer is closed to observe the Easter Monday public holiday, Violet is entitled to be paid her base rate of pay for her usual ordinary hours worked on a Monday. 


Rostering employees to work on a public holiday 

Where a business remains open on some or all public holidays, employers must follow proper processes when rostering an employee to work. 

The FW Act states that an employee is entitled to be absent from work on a public holiday and should be provided with the choice on whether or not they would like to work the public holiday. Employers may request for employees to work on a public holiday however, the request must be considered reasonable. 

Employees can refuse to work on a public holiday if: 

  • The employee has reasonable grounds, or 
  • The request to work is unreasonable. 

When employers are deciding whether to roster employees to work during a public holiday, they need to consider: 

  • The nature of the workplace 
  • The role and type of work an employee does 
  • Employee’s personal circumstances (e.g. carer or parental responsibilities) 
  • Employment status (full-time, part-time or casual) 
  • An expectation that the employee might be asked to work on the public holiday 
  • Any overtime, penalty rates or other payments the employee will be entitled to receive 
  • The amount of required notice 
  • Any other relevant factors 

Employers that fail to implement the requirements for public holiday requests may be liable to penalties under the FW Act. These penalties can range from $16,000 to $82,000 for individuals and $165,000 to $825,000 for corporations. 


What can employers do? 

If an employer is seeking to request employees to work on a public holiday, the request should be addressed to the employee directly and in writing. The request should not be addressed to ‘all staff’. This is not the only way to request employees to work a public holiday, the request can be made through rostering. 

Employers should be vigilant when preparing rosters for their employees, including taking the following steps: 

  • Prepare draft rosters in advance to provide sufficient time to request employees to work on a public holiday and ample time to refuse the request; 
  • Establish a system for issuing and monitoring requests to employees to work public holidays; 
  • Provide employees with valid reasons and explanations as to why they are requested to work on a public holiday; 
  • Ensure employees are aware that they can refuse an unreasonable request, and give the employees reasonable opportunities to either reject or accept the proposed roster; and 
  • Establish a procedure to consider if, where the employee rejects the request, it is still reasonable for the employee to work on that public holiday as requested. 


How can Business Chamber Queensland help?  

Business Chamber Queensland members with HR services as part of their membership are invited to contact the Workplace Advisory Services team:   

P: 1300 731 988 

E: [email protected]  


Businesses who do not have a HR membership may also seek assistance however a competitive consultancy fee will apply for any advice and assistance provided.   

For membership enquiries, please contact our membership team on 1300 731 988.  

Acknowledgement of Country

Business Chamber Queensland respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners and custodians of the lands from across Queensland and the Torres Strait. We acknowledge the Jagera and Turrbal people as the Traditional Custodians of Meanjin (Brisbane), the lands where our office is located and the place we meet, work and learn. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.