On 27 November, during the final parliamentary sitting week for 2019, Queensland Parliament passed legislation to amend the Holidays Act 1983 to provide for 6pm – midnight on Christmas Eve to be classified as a gazetted public holiday across the State. This part-day public holiday applies across all industries, to all businesses.
The original Bill (the, Holidays and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019) was introduced to Parliament in mid-September and was subsequently referred to the Education, Employment and Small Business Committee. The Committee accepted public submissions on the proposed legislation during October and tabled a final report to parliament on 4 November.
Despite the significant and universal opposition of the Bill by employer groups, the final report recommended approval of the Bill. The legislation was ultimately passed with IR Minister, Grace Grace, suggesting a majority of public submissions were in favour of creating the part-day public holiday (notwithstanding that employer groups dominated submissions to the Committee during the consultation process). The Minister claimed, “It is now society’s view that this is no ordinary night. For many, the night before Christmas is as important as the day itself”. “Christmas Eve is the one time of year above all that busy families make that special effort to be with one another,” she added.
With the legislation passed, 6pm to midnight on Christmas Eve is now enshrined as a part-day public holiday in Queensland. As a public holiday, workers may reasonably refuse to perform shifts during this period (of 6pm – midnight) and, in the case of award-covered employees, work performed after 6pm on 24 December will now attract the designated public holiday penalty set by an employee’s prevailing industrial instrument. In most Modern Awards, this public holiday penalty is double time and a half but it is worth remembering that various awards in the hospitality and retail sectors had the public holiday penalty scaled backwards in recent years. Furthermore, in the case of the Nurses Award 2010, the public holiday penalty is only double time. Casual employees will often be entitled to receive the casual loading in addition to the public holiday penalty but again, this would be determined by the prevailing instrument.
Like any other public holiday, permanent employees who would ordinarily have rostered hours after 6pm on Christmas Eve (this year, falling on a Tuesday) will be entitled to be absent without loss of pay, providing their employer does not reasonably require them to work.
ES Clients who will be ‘open for business’ after 6pm on Christmas Eve are encouraged to contact us on (07) 3220 3500 to clarify employees’ entitlements. We have also updated the 2020 Public Holiday calendar for Queensland to account for this new addition – Subscribers, login to your online account; go to ‘Fact Sheets’, then scroll to the ‘Pay’ subheading towards the bottom of the page.