High Court hands down decision on public holiday rostering

A High Court decision has emphasised the importance of employers requesting its employees to work on public holidays. 

OS MCAP, BHP’s in-house labour supplier, was seeking to appeal the Federal Court’s ruling that found it had breached National Employment Standards (NES) obligations under the Fair Work Act by requiring production employees to work at its Daunia mine in Queensland across the 2019 Christmas holidays.

This confirms the position that an employer must request an employee to work on a public holiday, and that request must be reasonable. Employees can refuse to work on a public holiday, but any refusal also needs to be reasonable.  

Several factors are likely to be taken into consideration when determining what a reasonable request or refusal is, including the nature of the employer’s enterprise and the type of work performed by the employee, the employee’s personal circumstances and whether the employee could reasonably expect their employer might request they work on a public holiday.  

CCIWA knows this is an area which might affect many employers and is something which many employees are aware of. The consequences of breaching the NES can be significant and we encourage a considered approach being taken in regard to working public holidays.  

Our Employee Relations Advice Centre can provide guidance on whether or not a request to work a public holiday, or an employee’s refusal to work on a public holiday is reasonable. You can also access our fact sheet for guidance.

If you have any questions about working public holidays, contact our Employee Relations Advice Centre on 9365 7660 or email [email protected] or if you would like to speak to one of our employment lawyers, email [email protected]. 

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