A recent judgment of the Full Bench of the Federal Court has dealt with the provisions of the National Employment Standards affording employees a right to be absent on public holidays and the capacity of employers to seek that they undertake work on such days.

The decision highlights the need for employers to request, rather than simply require, that employees work on a public holiday. The decision, issued only shortly before the Easter public holidays, will likely raise the need for many employers to review their approach to scheduling work on public holidays.

Importantly, the decision indicates, in effect, that an employee who is requested to work on a public holiday may refuse the request if the request is not reasonable, or the employee has a reasonable basis for refusing to work. If the employee does not have a proper basis for refusing the request, the employee may ultimately be required to work on the public holiday.

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