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Public Holidays and Your Rights at Work

You will have received an email from Deakin management regarding the King’s Birthday Holiday to recognise Deakin staff’s ongoing contributions while the University continues the bargaining process.

This additional public holiday has been framed in communications from the university as a part of proposed uplifts in a new enterprise agreement, that would mean that staff would not need to work Labour Day, King’s Birthday and Melbourne Cup Day.

These additional days are not granted off the back of Deakin’s kindness—rather, they are the outcome of a recent Full Federal Court decision on requirements to work public holidays.

The effect of this decision is that employers can no longer require staff to work public holidays without first requesting that they do so, and where an employer then requires a staff member to work on a public holiday, an employee may refuse to comply with such a requirement where their individual circumstances (family obligations, alternative plans etc) make such a refusal reasonable. This applies even if there is an enterprise agreement that appears to require staff to work on public holidays. See paragraphs 32 – 34 and 43 of the judgment linked above for a clear explanation of your rights.

In simple terms, you can no longer be simply directed to work on a public holiday. Instead, the university must first issue you a request, which you have the right to either accept or refuse. If you refuse, and the university directs you to work on that day, that direction must be reasonable and you may be able to refuse to work on the public holiday if you have good reasons for doing so.

This is not a result of Deakin’s generosity or to ‘recognise your ongoing contributions while we continue the bargaining process’, it is Deakin complying with its basic legal obligations.

As usual, if you want the facts on your rights and entitlements at work, you need to get your information from the Union. We encourage you to share this with your colleagues and get them to sign up.