Restaurant Management: Staff Entitlements on Public Holidays

Restaurant Management: Staff Entitlements on Public Holidays

It is critical that employee obligations and entitlements are met on public holidays, and workers are satisfied during these shifts, or restaurant managers face staff turnover and legislative consequences.

This article cover staff entitlements on public holidays, obligations required of hospitality businesses, and steps you can take to comply.

Do staff have to work?

 According to the Fair Work Ombudsman and section 114(3) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act), employees do not have to work on public holidays.

Employers can request that staff work on these days – and staff can refuse – either because the request is not reasonable or the refusal is reasonable. Below is a list of some of the considerations, outlined under the Act, that need to be taken into account to consider whether a request or refusal is reasonable:

  • the nature of the employer’s workplace or enterprise, including it’s operational requirements, and the nature of the work performed by the employee; 
  • the employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities;
  • whether the employee could reasonably expect that the employer might require work to be performed on a public holiday; 
  • whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime, penalty rates or other forms of compensation for, or a level of remuneration that reflects an expectation of, being required to work on public holidays; 
  • the type of employment of the employee (for example, does the employee work full-time, part-time, casual or shiftwork);
  • the amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the employer when making the request; and
  • relation to the refusal of a request — the amount of notice in advance of the public holiday given by the employee in refusing the request. 

Increased wages, and how to cover it

 According to the Fair Work Commission, employees often receive a higher rate than usual for working on public holidays. There are pay guides and the pay calculator, which can provide useful context in determining an appropriate award rate for staff working on these days. 

An option for venues to consider is a price increase on public holidays – for example, a 10 per cent price increase for coffees and meals – and being upfront with customers that the additional cost is helping to cover wages. Customers may be willing to pay $4.50 instead of $4 for a latte because they still need their coffee hit, competitors may be closed and they want to support your dedication to service. 

Entitlements to be considered

 Employees must be paid their base rate for all hours worked on public holidays as a bare minimum. Beyond that, the Fair Work Ombudsman lists some entitlements to be considered for staff working on public holidays that can be provided by awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements, including:

  •    extra pay (for example public holiday rates)
  •   an extra day off or extra annual leave
  •   minimum shift lengths on public holidays
  •   agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day

It is important to check your employees’ relevant contract, award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement for the additional entitlements outlined above. This will help ensure your employees are not paid below their legal entitlements on public holidays. 

Further, under section 116 of the Act, if an employee is absent from work on a public holiday, they are still entitled to be paid for that day.  However, if the employee does not usually work on the day the public holiday falls, they are not entitled to be paid.  For example, if the employee is a casual or part-time employee who is not rostered on the public holiday they are not entitled to be paid.   

Government agency websites are important resources in outlining employee obligations and entitlements on public holidays. It might not be one particular incentive, but a combination that encourages staff to work on these days. Rewarding these staff may prove to be particularly important, as they are key to a venue’s productivity, and retaining great employees will likely be an asset for your venue moving forward.


Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.