Bligh flags shake-up to public holidays

Queensland premier flags shake-up to public holidays, but changes could force business to pay more penalty rates

By Brad Gardner | September 19, 2011

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has flagged a shake-up to public holidays, including shifting the Queen’s birthday holiday and forcing businesses to pay more penalty rates.

Bligh released a discussion paper yesterday seeking feedback from business and the community on proposals to spread public holidays across the year and allocate extra days off when Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day fall on a weekend.

The Getting the balance right: A proposal on holidays in Queensland discussion paper also suggests expanding the state school Easter holidays from six weekdays to two weeks.

"It is proposed that when Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day fall on a weekend, a public holiday is declared for both the actual date of the holiday as well as an additional public holiday in the following week," the discussion paper says.

It means businesses will need to pay two lots of penalty rates – once on the weekend and then on the additional public holiday.

"Such arrangements may lead to increased labour costs for businesses that operate over seven days due to the payment of penalty rates for work performed on both the actual weekend public holiday and the additional weekday public holiday," the discussion paper says.

Under the government’s proposed changes, the Queen’s Birthday holiday will be shifted from June to September or October to break the state’s cluster of holidays between March and June. The government favours moving the date to October to avoid clashing with the September school holidays.

It claims moving the holiday will help business and give workers extra respite and rest in the second half of the year.

"It would lessen the disruptions to production and services for business and industry resulting from the concentration of public holidays/long weekends often falling in quick succession in the first half of the year," the discussion paper says.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) says it supports the proposal to move the Queen’s birthday holiday to the second half of the year.

CCIQ President David Goodwin says the current structure of holidays often conflicts with businesses running smoothly.

"Currently there is significant disruption to production and services for business and industry due to the concentration of public holidays and long weekends falling in quick succession in the first half of the year," he says.

However, the lobby group opposes an extra public holiday when Christmas, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day falls on the weekend. Goodwin says the change will undermine business viability and the capacity of employers to hire more staff.

Stakeholders have been given until October 31 to respond to the changes.

"Our lives are becoming busier and busier and that's why I feel it is important that we get the maximum benefit from the public holidays that we do have," Bligh says.

"But there are no statewide public holidays in the six months between the Queen's Birthday public holiday in June and Christmas Day in December and we are the only state that has no public holiday in the second half of the year."

The government last year amended the Holidays Act to allocate an extra lot of penalty rates for Christmas 2010 and New Year’s Day 2011, which both fell on a Saturday.

Businesses were required to pay staff at 2.5 times their usual rate on December 25 and 28 last year and January 1 and 3 this year.

The government announced at the time it was planning on passing further amendments to the Act to make the changes permanent.

"The major reason for considering an additional public holiday is so that those who work rostered hours, including weekends, have access to the same number of public holidays and penalty rates as workers on a standard Monday-to-Friday week," Education and Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick says.

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