Can employees get out of working public holidays?

31 May, 2017

Employees are entitled to be absent from work on a public holiday but bosses can request that employees work on a public holiday if the request is “reasonable”.

An employee can then only refuse this if the request is not reasonable or they have a good reason why they must refuse to work that day.

Factors which must be considered when considering whether the direction can stand include:

  • The nature of the workplace and the work performed by the employee
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities
  • Whether the employee can reasonably expect the request
  • Whether the employee receives compensation or a level of remuneration that reflects an expectation for them to work
  • The type of employment (e.g. full-time, part-time, casual)
  • The amount of notice given by the employer, and
  • The amount of notice given of a refusal.

If an employee wishes to refuse a request to work a public holiday, they would need to establish that the request isn’t reasonable or their refusal is reasonable given the above factors.

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