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What the new public holiday rostering rule means for you.

Did you know you now must ask employees to work any public holiday? 

A recent decision passed down by the Federal Court will change the way Australian companies can roster employees to work on public holidays.

BHP’s internal labour recruitment company Operation Services (OS) was found to have breached the Fair Work Act by requiring 85 workers to work on Christmas and Boxing Day in 2019. The employees did not receive any additional remuneration for working these days.

The 3 justices found that it was unfair for an employer to command their staff to work public holidays and affirmed that the NES mandates that employers need to make a reasonable request.

Having a set roster or contracted work arrangements (that even may have shown the shifts to be worked for years in advance) will not be considered a request.

This could have far-reaching effects and expose employers in other industries to civil penalties. 

Think about the millions of people in the resources, health, electricity and gas, corrective and emergency services, manufacturing, food production, logistics, retail and hospitality (just to name a few) that are now affected.

Employers will now need to make a specific and reasonable request for employees to work each public holiday, and the employee has the right to refuse, providing their objection is also reasonable.

Workplaces will now need to plan their public holiday coverage and make requests to work each public holiday well in advance.

What about the remote mine sites with FIFO staff?  If someone doesn’t want to work Christmas and Boxing Day, do they get sent home for those days (at great expense), sit in camp for the 2 days, or just not come to the site for that work cycle (which means a whole different kind of coverage planning)?

How will companies structure their “request forms” and can they do it in a way to cover multiple public holidays or will it be a separate confirmation for each one?

What about the people on annualised salaries that include the expectations of working a certain amount of rostered public holidays each year? (We can also help you unravel these historical pay calculations).

The retail and hospitality industries already have problems sourcing enough labour to keep the doors open. This may cause many of them to not bother on public holidays.

What are the implications for your operation, and how will you go about making a reasonable request for your employees to work on public holidays?

Orkest is an expert workforce planning and design consultancy, specialising in roster optimisation. 

Drawing on two decades of advisory across Australia and the Asia Pacific, we’re helping organisations solve their most crucial workforce challenges by finding balanced solutions that are good for business and good for people.