Queensland Government passes legislation for part-day public holiday on Christmas Eve

On 27 November 2019 the Palaszczuk State Government passed legislation to amend the Holidays Act 1983, with the key takeaway for employers being that hours worked after 6.00pm on Christmas Eve will now be a part-day public holiday. The change follows similar changes in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Specifically, following the change, the six (6) hours between 6pm on 24 December and midnight, will now be classified as a public holiday. The changes will be in effect for Christmas Eve this year.

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace indicated that 1800 submissions on the issue were received, with 71% of submissions supporting the move to make Christmas Eve a part-day public holiday. Minister Grace made the following comments:

“Many workers told of the ever-growing importance of Christmas Eve as a special time for family and friends,” …

“They told us it was a time to come together and celebrate the season and they should be properly compensated those who were required to work.

“The Palaszczuk Government strongly agrees with them.

“Christmas Eve should be spent with loved ones, but if you have to work there should be appropriate pay.

“Making it a public holiday gives those who have to work, like essential services personnel, retail staff and shop employees, better pay for having to give up that family time.”

Employers will then need to be wary of the impact of the changes on employee rates during the six (6) hour window on Christmas Eve. Employees who are covered by an award or enterprise agreement that provides for penalty rates on public holidays, may be entitled to the relevant penalty rate for hours worked during that period. The relevant award or enterprise agreement may also offer the employer and a permanent employee the option of substituting the part-day public holiday for another day (or part-day) off.

Employers covered by awards and enterprise agreements should carefully consider the relevant instrument regarding their obligations on public holidays, and if uncertain seek advice about their options. We anticipate that the overlapping of provisions around overtime rates, penalty rates and substitution days on Christmas could be an area of complexity for some employers, and so advice should be taken where such issues arise.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.