Public holiday pay and entitlements - state system employees

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EmployerEmployee / worker

wa_image_small.jpg This information is only relevant to employers and employees in the WA state industrial relations system – sole traders, unincorporated partnerships, unincorporated trusts and some incorporated or not for profit organisations. Find out more on the Guide to who is in the WA state system page.

If you operate or are employed by a Pty Ltd business – you can find information on this topic on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Learn about the changes to state employment laws that commenced on 20 June 2022.

This page covers questions commonly asked about payment for public holidays. Please check the WA award summaries or contact Wageline for specific information on public holiday rates.

Dates for Western Australia’s public holidays

Specific public holiday entitlement information is available for:

Australia Day 2022
Labour Day 2022
Easter 2022 
Anzac Day 2022 
Western Australia Day 2022
National Day of Mourning public holiday - 22 September 2022
King's Birthday 2022

Frequently asked questions about payment for public holidays

Easter Sunday is now a public holiday in WA - what do I need to know?

Easter Sunday is now a public holiday in Western Australia. 

The Public and Bank Holidays Act 1972, which specifies public holidays for Western Australia, was amended by the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Act 2021 to make Easter Sunday a public holiday.  These provisions commenced on 12 February 2022.

Full time and part time employees who are not required to work on Easter Sunday, solely because that day is a public holiday, will be entitled to their usual pay.

Implementation arrangements have also been introduced for state system employees covered by WA awards. WA award employees who are required to work on Easter Sunday will be entitled to receive any applicable public holiday penalty rates in their WA award or agreement on this day, rather than normal Sunday pay rates. 

The Easter Sunday public holiday is to be observed on Easter Sunday itself, rather than on an alternative day.  Any WA award provisions that would substitute the Easter Sunday public holiday to another day solely because the public holiday falls on a weekend will be of no effect. However, provisions that would substitute the Easter Sunday public holiday to another day for some other reason, for example, because it falls on an employee’s rostered day off, will continue to operate

More information on pay and entitlements for Easter Sunday is available on the Easter Sunday public holiday page.

Who is entitled to a paid day off for a public holiday? 

Full time and part time employees who are not required to work on a day solely because that day is a public holiday are entitled to be paid as if they were required to work on that day. Part time employees receive public holidays if the day falls on a day they would normally work.  

Should an employee be paid for every public holiday? 

If a full time or part time employee is ordinarily required to work on a day on which a public holiday falls, then they will be entitled to a paid day off for that day. If they are not ordinarily required to work on a day on which a public holiday falls, they will not be entitled to a paid day off for that day. For example, where a full time employee ordinarily works Tuesday to Saturday they would not be entitled to a paid day off for a public holiday that falls on a Monday as this is not a day they would normally work.

An employee normally works on the day of a public holiday, but the employer has changed the roster for that week. Should the employee still be paid for the public holiday?

Full time and part time employees who would ordinarily be required to work on a day that is a public holiday are entitled to a paid day off for that day. A roster change for one week is of no effect if that day is a day the employee would ordinarily work - changing a roster for one week does not mean the employee no longer ordinarily works that day.

An employer’s ability to change the employee's roster may also be restricted by the rostering provisions in any WA award which applies. For help in working out which provisions apply, contact Wageline.

Rostering for casual employees is more flexible, and casual employees are not usually entitled to a paid day off on public holidays. However, you should check the award, registered industrial agreement or written contract of employment to determine whether it provides casual employees with an entitlement to paid public holidays.

How much are employees paid for working on a public holiday?  

Most WA awards specify rates of pay for working on a public holiday. An award may, for example, require the payment of public holiday penalty rates such as double time, or double time and a half, for all hours worked on a public holiday. If an employee covered by a WA award works on a public holiday the minimum they must be paid for the hours they work on that public holiday is the wage rate specified in the award or agreement, including any public holiday penalty rates, even if they are paid above award rates. 

If you know which award applies to your situation, you can check the specific requirements about public holiday penalty rates in the WA award summaries. Alternatively, contact Wageline.

If an employee is award free, there are no minimum entitlements to additional rates of pay for working a public holiday. If a written employment contract applies to the employee, check what the contract specifies regarding public holidays.

Public holidays and public holiday penalty rates (if applicable) apply to apprentices and trainees as they do to other employees. 

Should an employee be paid for the same hours they normally work on a day if it is a public holiday? 

Full time and part time employees are entitled to be paid for days off on public holidays as if they had worked the same hours they ordinarily work.

Casual employees are generally not entitled to a paid day off on public holidays.

How is public holiday pay calculated for employees paid wholly by commission or piece rates?

Full time and part time employees paid wholly by commission, percentage reward or piece rates are to be paid the highest of the following for a public holiday:

  • a rate payable under a WA award or contract of employment for a period of leave;
  • a rate calculated according to the employee’s average weekly earnings over a period totalling 365 days immediately before the day of the public holiday;
  • the applicable minimum rate of pay.

Where the rate of payment for a public holiday is being calculated according to the employee’s average weekly earnings over the 365 days before the day of the public holiday, the following periods are not included in the calculation:

  • any period during which the employee was on unpaid leave; and
  • any period during which the employee was stood down in accordance with an award, agreement or legislative provision.

This ensures that employees are not disadvantaged if, for example, they have taken a period of unpaid leave, such as unpaid parental leave.

The public holiday was on the weekend but is being observed on a weekday. Does the employee get paid for both days?

Note – this information is not relevant for the Easter Sunday public holiday – see below for specific information for Easter Sunday.

The entitlement in this situation will depend on whether a WA award applies to the employee. If a WA award applies, it will generally deal with the employee's entitlement in one of three ways:

  • The public holiday observed on the weekday is substituted for the weekend public holiday, meaning only the observed weekday is treated as a public holiday, and there is no entitlement to a paid day off or public holiday rates for working on the weekend public holiday; OR
  • The day observed during the week is an additional public holiday, meaning both the original public holiday on the weekend and the weekday on which the holiday is observed will be considered public holidays for the purpose of determining employee entitlements to paid time off or public holiday penalty rates. If this type of provision applies, an employee would be entitled to a paid day off on both the actual and the observed substitute day (assuming they would normally be rostered work on both days). If the employee works on either the actual or the substituted public holiday, any public holiday rates of pay would apply to both days; OR
  • The actual public holiday on the weekend will be treated as a public holiday, so that the observed public holiday on the weekday has no effect on employees’ entitlements to a paid day off or public holiday penalty rates.  

Check the relevant WA award summary or Contact Wageline to determine what an employee must be paid or which days off an employee is entitled to in this situation.

The Easter Sunday public holiday is to be observed on Easter Sunday itself, rather than on an alternative day. Any WA award provisions that would substitute the Easter Sunday public holiday to another day solely because the public holiday falls on a weekend will be of no effect. However, provisions that would substitute the Easter Sunday public holiday to another day for some other reason, for example, because it falls on an employee’s rostered day off, will continue to operate. Visit the Easter Sunday public holiday page for more information

If no WA award applies, then in most cases only the actual day will be considered a public holiday. Award free full time and part time employees who would normally work that day, but do not work solely because the business is closed due to the public holiday, are entitled to be paid as if they were required to work that day. Payment for working on the day would depend on employment conditions (e.g. the contract of employment) and penalty rates would only apply if the employment conditions so provide. 

It should be noted that if a business chooses not to trade on a day which has been declared a public holiday, but which is not considered a public holiday under the relevant award or contract of employment, the employer may still have a contractual obligation to pay full time and part time employees for the hours they would normally have worked if the business was open.

Check the WA award summaries or contact Wageline for more information.

Is an employee entitled to penalty rates for working Easter Saturday?

Easter Saturday is not a public holiday in Western Australia. However, some WA awards provide for Easter Saturday penalty rates of pay. You should check the relevant WA award to determine whether a penalty rate applies to work on Easter Saturday.

Check the WA award summaries or contact Wageline for more information.

We are in a regional area and the King's Birthday public holiday is on a different day to the rest of WA. Which day should the employee be paid public holiday penalty rates or be provided with a paid day off?

In some regional areas within Western Australia the King’s Birthday (previously the Queen's Birthday) is celebrated on a different day to the rest of the state. This is to coincide with a day of regional significance (for example, a festival or race cup day). In the regions where this occurs, the nominated alternative King’s Birthday public holiday is observed instead of the King’s Birthday public holiday observed in the rest of WA.

An employee who lives in such a region, and who is entitled to be paid more for working on a public holiday, is not entitled to public holiday rates for working on both King’s Birthday public holidays. Rather, they are entitled to be paid public holiday rates for working on the King’s Birthday public holiday day that applies in their region.

Similarly, an employee who lives in a region with an alternative King’s Birthday public holiday, and who is entitled to a paid day off for that day, is only entitled to a paid day off for the alternative King’s Birthday public holiday.

You will need to check the relevant award, or written contract of employment to determine whether there is an entitlement to be paid more for work on any public holiday, including the alternative King’s Birthday public holiday. 

If a public holiday falls during a period that an employee is on sick leave, is the day paid as a public holiday or a sick leave day?

An employee on paid sick leave would be entitled to take a public holiday that falls during their period of paid sick leave as a paid public holiday, not as a paid sick leave day. 

Check the WA award summaries or contact Wageline for more information. 

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