Open for business on Australia Day?

Australia Day
Australia fireworks sparkling flag. New Year, Christmas and National day concept

The biggest issues facing small business when it comes to public holidays is balancing competing priorities such as cashflow, customer expectations, and managing staff.

For small-business owners, public holidays can mean changes in customer and staff behaviour. These issues can have an increased impact on a business on what is an already busy time of year and it is important that business owners and employers prepare and forecast for their business needs.

Remember, penalty rates apply

With Australia Day landing on a Saturday in 2019, the recognised day for the public holiday will be the following Monday (January 28). Keep in mind the Saturday is not considered a public holiday, so you will not need to pay public holiday rates for staff working on the Saturday.

For those coming in to work on January 28, a series of new penalty rates will need to be applied for workers in the restaurant, hospitality, pharmacy, fast food and retail industries. These changes came into effect in late 2017.

Employers should check the employee Awards or Enterprise Agreements that will set out their entitlements when they work a public holiday. Generally, employees are entitled to be paid penalty rates for the hours worked on a public holiday. The Awards can also provide additional entitlements or requirements when employees work on public holidays, such as an extra day of annual leave, or as an alternative day off.

Ensure you check the provisions of the Awards or Agreements which apply to your business and employees, along with their contracts of employment for any terms relevant to a public holiday such as minimum engagement periods.

Does it make business sense to open?

Some small-business owners may discover it’s not worth trading on a public holiday due to the high cost of wages for employees and consequently smaller margins. Consider the impact public holiday entitlements and penalty rates can have on a small business forecast revenue. For example, before deciding to trade on a public holiday you should take time to check the minimum rates that apply on public holidays. Doing this will allow you to forecast and budget staffing levels, expenditure, and revenue expectations.

You should also consider any other required obligations such as required or restricted trading hours.

Staff pulling sickies

Like it or not, many people consider it to be un-Australian not to chuck a few sickies. Regardless of whether you’re in retail, hospitality or work in an office, January 25 and January 29 will be the two days either side of Australia day employers must plan for.

The impact on the workplace is much greater than the actual financial cost of wages. It can have a direct impact on customer service, sales, and places unnecessary stress on your remaining staff.

Jonathan Wilson, Senior Employment Relations Adviser, Employsure