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During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are working reduced hours/days, with some not currently working at all. With Easter coming up at the end of this week, this raises the question – are employees still paid for public holidays if they are not working because of COVID-19? And if so, how much are they paid?

To determine the answer, the main question an employer must ask is “Would the employee be otherwise working on this day if it wasn’t for a public holiday?”

For employees still working their usual hours (e.g. Monday to Friday) from home, or in essential services, the answer to this is easy. They would normally be working on Good Friday and Easter Monday, and therefore they are entitled to be paid for these public holidays.

For employees still working their usual hours, and required under their employment agreements to work on Good Friday and Easter Monday, the situation is unchanged. The employee would get paid ‘time and a half’ and a day in lieu (assuming these days are normal working days for the employee).

Where it gets complicated is where, because of COVID-19, employees are either not currently working, working less hours than normal, or are still working their usual hours but are being paid less than normal.

If employees are not currently working, it is likely that Good Friday and Easter Monday would not otherwise be a working day for those employees as they would not have been working on the Friday or Monday anyway. Therefore, they would not be entitled to be paid for the public holidays. However, they should still receive the full benefit of any Government Wage Subsidy they are receiving.

More questions arise regarding employees who are on reduced pay during this period and would otherwise be working Good Friday or Easter Monday – how much should they be paid for these days? The answer, depending on the specific situation, is likely to be one of either their relevant daily pay (what they would have earnt had they worked at their reduced pay rate), or their average daily pay (which is likely to be higher).

The situation changes again if an employee is on annual leave during the COVID-19 lockdown. In this situation, it is possible that the employees are entitled to be paid for the public holidays over the Easter period that they would otherwise have worked had they not been on annual leave and had it not been a public holiday (i.e. they are paid a public holiday payment, not a days’ annual leave).

What is clear however, is the lack of certainty regarding how the COVID-19 lock-down affects employees’ entitlements to public holiday payments during this period. The answer will often depend on the specific situation.

If you have any questions regarding employee entitlements to public holiday payments during the COVID-19 lock-down, please get in touch with one of our employment team.

Claire Byrne | email Claire  | P: 04 916 7483
Mike Gould | email Mike | P: 04 916 6302
Richard Gordon | email Richard | P: 04 916 7464