Easter Sunday changes hit employers and workers

Many WA employers face either higher wage costs or having to close on Easter Sunday after changes to WA’s industrial laws were proclaimed last week.

The Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Act 2021 has formally introduced a public holiday for Easter Sunday, thereby increasing the nominal number of public holidays recognised in WA from 10 to 11. This will affect all WA organisations, including those covered by the national industrial relations legislation.

The McGowan Government cites the fact that other Australian states  have 11 prescribed public holidays, and these new laws bring WA into line.

CCIWA resisted the change, which will impact employers, consumers and workers.

CCIWA Principal Workplace Relations Advocate Paul Moss said the amendments will significantly affect those WA businesses that operate on a seven-day basis.

“Firstly, it will hit the retail, tourism and hospitality businesses, which have been the sectors most significantly impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions,” Moss said.

“Secondly, it will hit those health, aged care and community service organisations, many of which have been pushed to deliver essential services to the community under COVID-related pressures.

“The increased number of public holidays will also affect service delivery in other industries as they adjust labour requirements to offset the increased costs associated with operating on that day.

“The commitment to increase the number of public holidays to 11 also fails to recognise that most affected businesses already face paying workers for up to 14 public holidays in any year as a result of the interaction between the Federal Fair Work Act and the State Public and Bank Holidays Act,” Moss added.

“This is an unintended consequence of the interaction between the State and Federal legislation, where an extra day is recognised as a public holiday when New Year’s Day, Anzac Day, Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a weekend.”

Federal laws provide for an additional public holiday when New Year’s Day, Anzac Day, Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a weekend.

In 2021 WA employers faced additional public holidays on:

  • Anzac Day – Sunday 25 April and Monday 26 April 2021;
  • Christmas Day – Saturday 25 December and Monday 27 December 2021;
  • Boxing Day – Sunday 26 December and Tuesday 28 December 2021.

In 2022, the additional public holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day – Saturday 1 January and Monday 3 January 2022;
  • Easter Sunday – Sunday 17 April;
  • Christmas Day – Sunday 25 December and Monday 26 December 2022.

“CCIWA has consistently raised this issue with both State and Federal Governments since the introduction of the Fair Work Act and believes that this concern can be addressed by the WA Government amending the Public and Bank Holiday Act,” Moss said.

Research undertaken by the Fair Work Commission has previously identified that in managing changes to labour costs, 70-85 per cent of retail and hospitality businesses would respond to increased wage costs by cutting hours for casual staff and reducing the number or length of shifts.

This is reinforced through the Decision Regulatory Impact Statement (DRIS) which estimates the cost of the new public holiday to be $28.88 million, of which the cost to the public sector is only $2.6m.

Moss said this cost also does not consider the impact on superannuation, worker’s compensation or payroll tax, which may increase employers’ costs by 15 per cent.

“It also recognises that the change will result in fewer working hours for workers but does not provide an estimate of the income that will be lost by these employees,” he said.

In establishing Easter Sunday as a public holiday, the new Act amends all State awards and industrial agreements to require the relevant public holiday penalty rate to be applied to work performed on that day.

For further information on the new public holiday, please contact CCIWA’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email [email protected].

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