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Public Holiday Pay: What is it and How to Calculate it?

When your employees take time off, sometimes they can be entitled to be paid for a portion of their leave. In Australia, employee entitlements to public holiday pay and employer obligations around public holiday pay rates are covered under the National Employment Standards (NES), Awards and Enterprise Agreements. The NES sets out basic employment entitlements available to all employees. Awards are legal documents that set out minimum pay rates including public holiday pay rates and conditions of employment while Enterprise Agreements set out the entitlements the employer will provide for employees in their business or enterprise. For employers who offer additional leave, this should be included in the employment contract. 

It is important to be legally compliant and know what your employees are entitled to in terms of public holiday pay and the applicable public holiday pay rates.

What is public holiday pay?

Employees who work a public holiday are entitled to a public holiday pay rate. Public holiday pay rates and entitlements are outlined in industry awards or enterprise agreements which are generally based on an individual’s age, responsibilities, qualifications, and industry.

Public holiday pay rates

Public holiday pay rates, often called penalty rates, are set by the award the employee is classified under. Public holiday pay rates are higher than the employees’ minimum pay rate. Full-time, part-time and casual employees receive different entitlements.


In Australia, full-time employees who normally work on the day a public holiday falls on are entitled to a paid day off. This means that full-time employees who don’t work on a public holiday are entitled to be paid their minimum pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked if they weren’t away because of the public holiday. If a full-time employee works on a public holiday, they are entitled to the relevant public holiday rate paid at a penalty rate.


Generally, most awards state that part-time employees are entitled to public holiday rates paid at a penalty rate for hours worked on a public holiday. Check your award or enterprise agreement for the conditions that apply to your business.


Most awards state that casual employees are entitled to public holiday rates paid at a penalty rate for hours worked on a public holiday. Casual employees are generally not entitled to payment for public holidays that they do not work. 

This entitlement may differ based on the conditions in your award or enterprise agreement. For more information on casual employees’ entitlements, familiarise yourself with the Casual Employment Information Statement, which is a document that provides new casual employees with information about their conditions of employment.

Public holiday rates for popular awards

Award Type

Full-time & Part-time


Hospitality Industry

225% of their base hourly rate on public holidays (base hourly rate x 2.25 ‘double time and a quarter’)

250% of their base hourly rate on public holidays (base hourly rate x 2.50 ‘double time and a half’)

General Retail Industry

Fast Food Industry

Restaurant Industry

Pharmacy Industry

Health Professionals

250% of their base hourly rate on public holidays (base hourly rate x 2.50 ‘double time and a half’)

250% of their base hourly rate on public holidays (base hourly rate x 2.50 ‘double time and a half’)

Registered and Licensed Clubs

Visit the Fair Work website to find out more information about public holiday rates and penalty rates relevant to your award.

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Public holiday entitlements

In Australia, public holidays are part of the NES, a document that outlines 11 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees. Please note that employees cannot be forced to work on a public holiday. An employee has the right to refuse to work on a public holiday. It is important to note that awards, enterprise agreements or other registered agreements can set out other rules and entitlements for employees who do not work on a public holiday.

There are a variety of circumstances for the Fair Work Act to take into consideration when deciding who will be working on the day. If an employee works on a public holiday, they may have the right to some entitlements depending on the type of employment, awards they work under, enterprise agreements, or other types of agreements under which they are employed. Some examples of these entitlements can be:

  • Extra pay or penalty rates (e.g. public holiday rates)
  • An extra day off, or extra annual leave
  • Minimum shift lengths on the public holiday
  • Agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day 
  • Minimum number of hours they can work, depending on the industry they’re working in

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees are being paid correctly. You can check the Fair Work public holiday penalty rates page for information specific to your industry.

Public holidays in Australia

Since employees can get different entitlements on public holidays, it is very important to keep in mind the public holiday dates for the state or territory where the employee is based. 

There are a number of national public holidays coming up in Australia including:

National Public Holiday



New Years Day

Sunday 1 January 2023

Monday 1 January 2024

Australia Day

Thursday 26 January 2023

Friday 26 January 2024

Good Friday

Friday 7 April 2023

Friday 29 March 2024

Easter Monday

Monday 10 April 2023

Monday 1 April 2024

Anzac Day

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Thursday 25 April 2024

Christmas Day

Monday 25 December 2023

Wednesday 25 December 2024

Boxing Day

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Thursday 26 December 2024

Employees are only entitled to public holiday pay for the public holidays in the state or territory in which they are based for work. For example, an employee based in Sydney that is visiting Melbourne for work during the Melbourne Cup is not entitled to public holiday pay as they are based for work in Sydney

See a full list of public holidays for your state or territory below.

How to calculate public holiday pay?

Employees who work during a public holiday get paid a higher rate. This pay rate would often be a multiple of the base hourly rate, for example: 1.5x time and a half, 2x double time, 2.5x double time and a half, and so on. 

The base hourly rate will depend on the employee’s award. So with that value at hand, you will then make the calculation with a multiple of the base pay as mentioned above.

You can also use tools, calculators or software to help you automate these calculations.

Public holiday pay calculator 

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, you can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay and Conditions Tool (P.A.C.T) Pay Calculator to help you find and calculate public holiday pay rates based on the award that applies to your industry. It will have the most updated information from Fair Work and it will take into account your base pay rates, allowances and penalty rates (including overtime). 

The P.A.C.T Pay Calculator will allow you to make different calculations such as:

  • Calculate your pay, allowances and penalty rates
  • Calculate your annual leave and sick/carer’s leave
  • Calculate entitlements for ending employment

Fair Work also offers an introductory video to the Pay and Conditions Tool which you can watch below.

More Resources: You can also use our free income tax calculator to see how your income will look after taxes.

Payroll software that helps you ensure you are paying public holidays correctly 

At QuickBooks, we know that staying on top of the different public holidays rates including penalty rates and award entitlements is not an easy task. That is why our payroll software has a pre-built modern award interpretation feature that will help you ensure you pay your employees correctly in each pay run. 

QuickBooks Payroll powered by Employment Hero also allows you to build the rules of your Enterprise Agreement for automating your own pay conditions. 

Check all of our payroll software features here and compare our Standard and Advanced plans. Feel free to book a free payroll setup session with one of our onboarding team experts to get you started.

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