The complexity of calculating penalty rates for public holidays can be a daunting task for both employers and employees alike. Recent research indicates a significant lack of understanding surrounding entitlements on public holidays, leading to widespread confusion and potential underpayment. This problem is exacerbated by the intricacies of modern awards, casual loading, and the varying entitlements of part-time and casual employees. The solution lies in a comprehensive guide to calculating public holiday pay rates, including penalty rates and award payments.

By understanding the principles of payment for public holidays, employees who work on these days, especially during significant events like the Melbourne Cup or changes like daylight savings, can ensure they receive the public holiday rates paid rightfully for their hours worked.

Understanding Public Holiday Pay Rates

Public holidays offer employees a break from the usual Monday to Friday work routine, recognizing important days. When work on a public holiday occurs, the pay rate differs significantly from ordinary hours, incorporating a public holiday penalty rate to compensate for the inconvenience. This enhanced rate applies to all employees, including part-time and casual employees, ensuring they are entitled to be paid more per hour worked. Fair Work outlines that the public holiday rate should reflect the value of missing out on a day meant for rest, with each hour worked attracting additional pay, often calculated as overtime for those hours beyond their roster.

Importance of Public Holidays and Penalty Rates 2023-24

Public holidays serve as a cornerstone for cultural, social, and leisure activities, providing essential downtime for workers. In 2024, penalty rates highlight the significance of these days, which act as a financial acknowledgement of the sacrifice workers make by working on these days. For employees, the benefits include:

  • Enhanced pay rates for each hour worked on a day public holiday, ensuring fair compensation.
  • Additional allowances may apply, further boosting the overall pay for the day.
  • The opportunity for casual employees to receive a higher hourly rate, making up for the lack of other entitlements like paid leave.

These principles ensure workers are adequately rewarded for foregoing public holidays, and maintaining a balance between work and leisure.

Calculating Penalty Rates for Public Holidays

Basic Calculation of Public Holiday Pay Rates

To calculate the base pay rate for public holidays, multiply the hourly rate by the penalty rate. For example, if the Fair Work Ombudsman specifies a penalty rate of 250% (double time and a half) for Easter Monday, calculate the pay as: Hourly Rate x 2.5.

Incorporating Penalty Rates and Public Holidays

Employees who work on public holidays, such as Melbourne Cup or Easter Monday, often receive higher pay rates. The Fair Work Ombudsman provides guidelines on penalty rates, which vary depending on the employee’s award or enterprise agreement. For instance, an employee rostered to work on a public holiday must receive a penalty rate, which could be double time (200%) or more, to compensate for working on significant days.

This practice ensures employees receive fair compensation, acknowledging their right to enjoy public holidays or receive adequate compensation for giving up this leisure time. It’s crucial to check the specific conditions outlined in the relevant enterprise agreement or modern award, as these documents detail the exact rates and conditions for public holiday work.

Adjustments for Daylight Savings and Public Holidays

Daylight savings can affect the calculation of hours worked on public holidays, particularly when the clocks change. Employees who work during the period when daylight savings starts or ends may find their hours of work either lengthened or shortened. For example, if daylight savings ends and the clock goes back, an employee working an overnight shift might work an extra hour. The Fair Work Ombudsman advises that employees should be paid for all hours worked, including any additional hours due to daylight savings adjustments. Employers need to ensure that their pay and conditions tool accurately reflects these changes to comply with workplace relations laws and maintain fair treatment of employees during public holidays.

Special Considerations

Impact of Public Mental Health on Public Holiday Pay

2024 Public holidays, like the Melbourne Cup, bring a pause to the regular workflow, impacting public mental health positively by providing rest and relaxation opportunities. Employers must recognize the significant role these breaks play in enhancing employee well-being. Accordingly, employees who work on these days receive public holiday rates, acknowledging their sacrifice. Modern awards and enterprise agreements often include provisions for penalty rates, ensuring workers receive compensation that reflects the importance of their contribution to maintaining services during these periods. This approach not only respects the workforce’s rights but also supports their mental health by validating the value of their work on days of collective rest.

Holiday Pay Adjustments for Daylight Savings

The transition in and out of daylight savings time can affect the calculation of hours worked on a public holiday, especially when the change falls on or near a public holiday. Employers must pay employees rostered to work during these times in a way that accurately reflects the actual hours worked, including any applicable penalty rates. This ensures that employees receive public holiday rates throughout the shift, even if daylight savings changes working hours. For example, an employee working through a shift that spans the moment daylight savings ends could work an extra hour, which must be compensated accordingly, often at a higher rate to acknowledge the extended work period. Employers must adjust their payroll systems to accurately capture these anomalies to comply with workplace relations laws and modern awards.


Ensuring employees receive the correct public holiday pay rates, including penalty rates, is crucial for maintaining fair workplace relations and acknowledging the value of work on these significant days. This guide aims to demystify the process, providing clear steps and considerations for calculating pay rates accurately. Employers and employees alike are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their rights and obligations under their relevant public holidays and modern awards. As we strive for transparency and fairness in holiday pay adjustments, one must ask: Are we doing enough to safeguard and respect the entitlements of those who work on public holidays?


1. Do employees receive extra pay for working on public holidays?
Yes, employees receive extra pay for working on public holidays, often referred to as penalty rates, which compensate for working on these days.

2. What happens if a public holiday falls on a weekend?
If a public holiday falls on a weekend, a substitute public holiday may be provided. Employees required to work will receive the public holiday rates paid.

3. Can employees refuse to work on a public holiday?
Employees have the right to reasonably refuse to work on a public holiday, according to National Employment Standards (NES).

4. How does daylight savings affect public holiday pay?
Employers must adjust pay to accurately reflect hours worked during daylight savings changes, including any applicable public holiday penalty rates.

5. What are the entitlements for part-time and casual employees on public holidays?
Part-time employees receive public holiday rates for hours worked, while casual employees may receive higher penalty rates depending on the award.