Open for Business on a Public Holiday?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

A quick guide to retail trading hours and administrative due diligence

When the AFL Grand Final eve parade was declared a public holiday in 2015, it made Victoria the public holiday capital of the country and won the hearts of the state’s footy-obsessed fans. It’s to be a glorious prelude to watching the most popular spectator sport in the nation, with snags on the barbie, sanga in one hand and amber fluid in the other. Rejoice, Victoria!

But then reality quickly set in. The new public holiday came with a hefty price tag.

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, it’s a $852 million, to be exact. That is what the state lost in wages, productivity and penalty rates in exchange for the new holiday in 2015.

More repercussions ensued, as Queensland and NSW got all hot under the collar, arguing how they too deserved to a holiday before the NRL Grand Final, for their devotion to rugby.

The move was also considered political, to rally support behind the facade of uniting Victoria through sport.

But the real victims are the small business owners, who will have to suffer annually and sort through a multitude of regulations to ensure compliance as they battle the question of ‘to open or not to open for business’.

And they’re not alone. From the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the Restaurant and Catering Australia, peak organisations have chimed in on how the decision was more bonkers than bonzer.

On Grand Final Friday, the cost to pay Victoria’s almost 2 million full-time employees not to come to work could reach $543 million for the day. Over half a billion dollars could pay the salaries of more than 6,500 Victorians for a year. This waste strikes at the heart of efforts to improve the competitiveness of Victorian business and grow jobs.

— Mark Stone, Chief Executive, Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry

To help SMEs get clued up, here’s a quick guide and helpful tips, so no one has to run about like headless chook come next holiday, or should a new one befall.


Not All Holidays Are Created Equal

The annual gazetted national holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Australia Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • ANZAC Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing/Proclamation Day

As with the number of public holidays, the rules governing retail trading hours during public holidays also vary by state and territory. Sorting them out can be trickier than winning on pokies.


Retail Trading Hour Guide by State, Territory and Exemptions (or Not!)

To help you get your ducks in a row, below is a quick summary of the most pertinent laws by state and territory.

Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory

Good news: The Island of Inspirations and the two territories do not have restricted retail trading hours, and businesses have the freedom to open as and when they like. It should be noted, however, that most choose to close on Good Friday.

Not so good news: Save your brain power for the rest.

New South Wales

NSW retail trading hours are restricted on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day (prior to 1pm), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. To be exempt, your business must fulfill at least one or more of the following requirements:

Know that your employees working on a restricted day must do so without being coerced, harassed, threatened or intimated, under the Retail Trading Act 2008. If found guilty, employers may be fined up to $5,500.


Retail trading hours in the Sunshine State are dictated by the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 and are applicable on ANZAC Day, Easter, Labour Day and Christmas. Just like other states and territories, only exempt shops are allowed to trade. They range from antique shops to butcher’s shop and service stations. Non-exempt shops are still permitted to trade within special hours in the defined area, with longer operating hours for bottle shops.

South Australia

When covering the Adelaide Cup this year, Lauren Waldhuter, a reporter for ABC said she’d rather predict the match than figure out what was open for business due to the state’s complex trading hour regulations during public holidays.

The Festival State allows retail businesses to be open on restricted days based on the zones, size and industry.


The state stipulates two and half days of restricted trading in the year, falling on Good Friday, Christmas Day and between 12:01am and 1pm on ANZAC Day.

On these days, businesses that wish to operate must meet the following criteria:

  • Have 20 or fewer persons employed in the shop at any time.
  • The number of persons employed by the business and its related entities is no more than 100 at any time during the seven days immediately before the restricted trading day.

Certain types of business are exempt, in accordance with the Shop Trading Reform Act 1996. It’s worthy to note licensed establishments serving or selling alcohol in Victoria are allowed to operate later than the usual trading hours under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998.

Western Australia

All general retail shops (any businesses that do not fall under the categories of small retail shops, special retail shops, service stations or motor vehicle shops) must be closed on Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day.

  • Small retail shop refers to businesses with a specific number of owners, employees and stores. Certification is required to operate. Full specifications here.
  • Special retail shop refers to businesses offering convenience, emergency or weekend recreational goods. Certification is required to operate. Full list here.


Administrative Due Diligence*

Once you know the legal standing of your business, onward to the nitty-gritty.

Proper Record-Keeping

Record-keeping is an important issue, but one that is often at the bottom of an organisation’s to-do list. Fair Work and the courts have been penalising companies who fail to meet their legal obligations for keeping records. It is an expensive oversight and one that will continue to cost businesses big bikkies.

“It’s time to get serious about keeping records of staff hours and wages. In 2015/16, nearly half of the cases we filed in court included alleged record-keeping contraventions. This trend has continued in the current financial year with record-keeping allegations present in two-thirds of all court proceedings initiated.”

— Natalie James, Fair Work Ombudsman


Under the NES, an employer can ask an employee to work on a public holiday if the request is reasonable. It is important to note how the act of rostering someone to work does not equal employee consent, which is required.

What if someone chucks a sickie?

Exercising care is the way to go. No matter the size of your operations, make sure your employees know what’s involved if and when they take a sick leave, with a clear and readily available company policy.

Under the Fair Work Act, an employer can request for evidence to support from employee to verify the reason they are unfit for work. Employees who refuse may not be entitled to get paid for the taken leave.

Penalty Rates

Depending on the applicable Fair Work award or agreement, working on a public holiday will entitle your employee to one or more of the following:

  • Extra pay (public holiday rates).
  • An extra day off or annual leave.
  • Minimum shift lengths on public holidays.
  • Substituting work for another day.

If you’re not sure about what qualifies as “reasonable overtime”, Fair Work has the answer.

Yet to automate your employee time tracking?

*Please refer to a legal advisor specialising in Fair Work and consult your local chamber of commerce or peak organisations regarding the specific regulations and how they impact your business. TSheets does not recommend individual practices, is not claiming to ensure you meet all requirements of such regulations and leaves administrative decisions to the discretion of your organisation.

Think you’re a Fair Work whiz? Prove it!

Need Help with Fair Work Compliance? Here are our top 9 secrets.