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Are shift workers entitled to public holiday pay?

What if they aren't rostered to work on that day?
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Are shift workers entitled to public holiday pay?

Are shift workers entitled to public holiday pay?

24 March 2021

Are shift workers entitled to payment for a public holiday if they aren't rostered to work on that day?

This issue arises when employees on rotating shifts aren't rostered to work on a day that falls on a public holiday. If an enterprise agreement is silent on this point there would not be an entitlement to payment for a public holiday that falls on a day a shift worker was not rostered to work.

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides that an employee is not entitled to payment for a public holiday if the employee does not have ordinary hours of work rostered on the public holiday. Employers also need to refer to the terms of the applicable enterprise agreement or modern award. Some modern awards contain terms which provide payment to a shift worker in this circumstance.


Modern awards

Some modern awards contain provisions which bestow an additional entitlement, or additional time off, for employees who are not otherwise rostered to work on a public holiday. This is particularly the case in those industries where seven-day continuous shift work is commonplace.

For example, the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2020 contains a subclause which specifically provides for payment, or other alternatives, in this circumstance. The Award provides as follows:

40.5 Rostered day off falling on public holiday

(a) Except as provided for in clauses 40.5(b) and (c) and except where the rostered day off falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, where a full-time employee’s ordinary hours of work are structured to include a day off and such day off falls on a public holiday, the employee is entitled, at the discretion of the employer, to either:

(i) 7.6 hours of pay at the ordinary time rate
(ii) 7.6 hours of extra annual leave, or
(iii) a substitute day off on an alternative week day.

(b) Where an employee has credited time accumulated pursuant to clause 27.5, then such credited time should not be taken as a day off on a public holiday.
(c) If an employee is rostered to take credited time accumulated pursuant to clause 27.5 as a day off on a week day and such week day is prescribed as a public holiday after the employee was given notice of the day off, then the employer must allow the employee to take the time off on an alternative week day.
(d) Clauses 40.5(b) and (c) do not apply in relation to days off which are specified in an employee’s regular roster or pattern of ordinary hours as clause 40.5(a) applies to such days off.


Which is holiday shift?

A common issue for employers with continuous shift operations is which shift is the public holiday shift in the case of a night shift (or afternoon shift) which starts prior to a public holiday and extends into it, or a shift which commences on a public holiday and extends into the following day.

Award provisions are usually silent on this point. Where it is desired to allow employees to take the holiday, the practice in many cases is to allocate the shift to the holiday the greater portion of which falls on the holiday, and to treat the whole of the other shift that extends into the holiday as an ordinary shift.

The bottom line: A shift worker is not entitled to payment for a public holiday that falls on a non-rostered day unless otherwise provided by the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement.

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