Why it can pay to toil on the holidays

Penalty not always on workers

By Henry Budd

When the alarm clock sounds on Monday morning, most workers will have the satisfaction of rolling over and going back to sleep. But spare a thought for those for whom the Queen’s birthday holiday is just like any other Monday.

From policeman and nurses, to chefs, hotel staff, box office and service station attendants, thousands of people across the state still have to get to work.

While the downsides of working a public holiday are obvious, there are plenty of people who don’t mind heading into work while others get to stay home.

Aquafit Fitness and Leisure membership consultant Jill Walker says prospective members are less stressed and have more time to look around the centre on public holidays, which makes her job more enjoyable.

The gym, part of the Campbelltown Catholic Club, is open every day bar Good Friday and Christmas Day.

"It is a different atmosphere on public holidays, but surprisingly busy," she says.

"People like to stick to exercise routines."

Walker says she is compensated for working on the holiday "with a bit of extra money", but couldn’t say just how much.

The number of people who regularly work on public holidays is hard to pin down. Neither the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the NSW Department of Industrial Relations nor the Federal Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, could shed light on the matter.
       
Despite what many believe, workers are not entitled by law to have the day off on public holidays.

According to a NSW Industrial Relations Commission spokesman, if a worker is regularly rostered on the day on which the pubic holiday falls, their employer could reasonably expect them to go to work.

Normally employers try to give workers the day off, but for many businesses such as tourist attractions and restaurants, where trade booms on holidays, giving employees the day off isn’t always feasible.

Compensation is determined by the relevant award or the employee’s individual contract. For example, some awards may stipulate giving workers extra annual leave in exchange for working public holidays, while others may specify being paid double-time.

 If you want a job where you are guaranteed a day off on public holidays, try applying at the nearest bank.

Under the NSW Banks and Bank Holiday Act, banks are required by law to close on public holidays. Traditionally this meant that because banks were closed, no other business could operate, but things have changed over the years and there are now a whole host of businesses that remain open.

St Vincent’s Hospital after-hours nurse manager Ann Morrice will also be clocking on this Monday.

Nurses are compensated with extra pay and a day off in lieu, she says. As with Walker, Morrice says there is a more relaxed atmosphere at work on public holidays.

"One of the things I enjoy about public holidays is that everybody makes sure they acknowledge each other because you are all in it together," Morrice says.

Working on public holidays also means Morrice gets to avoid driving in Sydney’s notorious workday traffic.

"And you get a day off when everybody else is coming into work," she says.

"It is nice when you drive down the M5 and you see everyone else going into work."
       
        NSW holidays
        2008
        * Queen’s Birthday: Monday, June 9
        * Bank Holiday: Monday, August 4**
        * Labour Day: Monday, October 6
        * Christmas Day: Thursday, December 25
        * Boxing Day: Friday, December 26
       
        2009
        * New Year’s Day: Thursday, January 1
        * Australia Day: Monday, January 26
        * Good Friday: April 10
        * Easter Saturday: 11 April
        * Easter Monday: April 13
        * Anzac Day: Saturday, April 25
        * Queen’s Birthday: Monday, June 8*
        * Bank Holiday: Monday, August 3**
        * Labour Day: Monday, October 5*
        * Christmas Day: Friday, December 25
        * Boxing Day: Saturday, December 26
        * Yet to be proclaimed
     
        ** Not a state-wide public holiday</p>

The Daily Telegraph


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