Public Holidays - Otherwise Working Day


Paying staff on public holidays

To work out an employee's entitlements to holidays and leave, you need to know whether the day is "an otherwise working day" for the employee. That is, is it a day that the employee would normally have worked, if it were not a public holiday.

If your employee is not working due to the current non-essential business closure, a public holiday which falls in this period will not be 'an otherwise working day' and the payment they receive will be the agreed rate they are being paid for the closed period. For example if your employee is not working and is being paid 80% of their wages, this will not change because of the public holiday.

If the public holiday falls on an 'otherwise working day' for your employee, you are required either to:

    (i) give them a paid day off; or
    (ii) to pay time and a half and give them an alternative paid day off.

If the public holiday is not an otherwise working day, but the employee works, you need to pay him or her time and a half, but you are not required to provide a day in lieu of the public holiday.

In many cases it's easy to work out whether or not an employee would otherwise have worked on the day in question because the working pattern or roster is constant and the two of you can easily agree about whether the employee would otherwise have worked that day. However, if it's unclear, then you must try to reach agreement with your employee. In doing so, you both need to consider all of the following factors:

  • what the employment agreement says
  • the employee's usual work patterns
  • any other relevant factors such as:
  • - if the employee works for the employer only when work is available
    - the employer's rosters or other similar systems
    - the reasonable expectations of the employer and employee as to whether the employee would have worked on that day
    - if the employee would normally have worked if it wasn't a holiday (public or alternative) or if the employee was not on leave (sick or bereavement).

You can't take an employee off the roster on a public holiday when it's a day that he or she would otherwise have worked on, in order to avoid giving the employee public holiday entitlements. Not recognising an employee's holiday entitlements is against the law.

If you're still not sure you can contact us at or give us a call on 0800 472 472.

Published in the 25th May 2020 edition of Talking Shop.

Make sure you are in the know about Public Holidays

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