Aussie workers to see major public holiday change

Bosses will no longer be able to simply roster workers on a public holiday without a discussion.

·2-min read
Australian cash and people sitting at restaurants and cafes in a popular location in the Melbourne CBD to represent working on a public holiday.
Aussie bosses will need to request employees work on a public holiday before rostering them on. (Source: Getty)

Aussie bosses will now have to ask workers if they want to work on a public holiday instead of just rostering them on, as a result of a new court ruling.

The Australian Federal Court found mining giant BHP had broken the Fair Work Act by forcing 85 Queensland miners to work on Christmas and Boxing Day without any extra pay.

The court declared it was unfair for an employer to command people to work on public holidays and that bosses must request employees to work. The court ruling will now override whatever is written into existing employee contracts.

The court also said employees may refuse to work the public holiday if they had reasonable grounds for doing so.

“The requirement that there be a ‘request’ rather than a unilateral command prompts the capacity for discussion, negotiation and a refusal,” the decision said.

Calls for more public holidays

Recently, ​​an Aussie think tank called for two extra public holidays for all Australians to recognise our diverse cultural and religious populations.

Lowy Institute research fellow Osmond Chiu said Australia’s public holidays still reflected Western Christian traditions, despite fewer Aussies identifying as Christian and only a quarter of Aussies attending church once a year.

Chiu said Diwali and the Lunar New Year were two of the most obvious choices to add and noted that China, India and the Philippines were among our top five countries of birth excluding Australia.

Recognising a range of cultural and religious days as public holidays wasn’t a new idea, Chiu said, with countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia already doing so.

In fact, in Australia, Christmas Island recognises Lunar New Year and Eid as public holidays, while the Cocos (Keeling) Islands has a public holiday for Eid.

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