As a small business owner it is important to make sure that if you are open for business on a public holiday or long weekend that you are prepared.

Before starting your preparation find out if you are allowed to be open on a public holiday, as small retail shops, special retail stores, service stations and motor vehicle shops must be closed on Good Friday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day.

Trading hours

General retail shops

All shops are regarded as general retail shops unless they are a: small retail shop, special retail shop, service station or motor vehicle shop. It is important to note that you do not have to open for business, but can should you wish within the specified trading hours.

Standard trading hours for general retail shops in the Perth metropolitan area:

  • 8am to 9pm - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday
  • 8am to 5pm - Saturday
  • 11am to 5pm - Sunday
  • 11am to 5pm - public holidays
  • 8am to 6pm - Labour Day, Easter Monday, WA Day and King's Birthday
  • Closed on Good Friday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day

Regional businesses

Non-metropolitan trading hours will remain as per usual:

  • 8am to 6pm Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday
  • 8am to 9pm Thursday
  • 8am to 5pm Saturday
  • Closed on Sundays and public holidays

Local governments outside the metropolitan area can apply to Consumer Protection for extended retail trading hours.

Small and special retail shop

If you are a small retail shop with up to six people and operate no more than four retail shops of up to 25 people working at any one time, you will need to apply for a certificate to be able to trade 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Small retail shops may sell any goods other than motor vehicles.

Special retail shops that are considered necessary for emergency, convenience or recreation goods can trade from 6am to 11.30pm every day of the year. To trade as a special retail shop, you will need to apply for a certificate. Special retail shops include:

  • pharmacies
  • garden nurseries
  • hardware and home improvement shops
  • newsagencies and bookshops
  • video shops
  • art and craft shops
  • souvenir and duty-free shops
  • shops at sports venues
  • boating shops
  • motor vehicle spare parts shops
  • shops at international standard hotels

Learn more about retail trading hours.

Public holidays in WA

Western Australia has 11 public holidays:

  • New Year's Day
  • Australia Day
  • Labour Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Easter Monday
  • Anzac Day
  • Western Australia Day
  • King's Birthday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

Check the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety website for specific holiday dates each year.

Staff working on a public holiday

You can ask your employees to work on a public holiday if the request is reasonable, however they have the right to refuse the request if they have reasonable grounds. It’s important to note that rostering someone to work does not equal employee consent, which is required.

So what happens if an employee refuses to work on a public holiday?

National Employment Standards (NES) protect an employee’s workplace right to reasonably refuse or be absent from work on a day or part-day that is a public holiday. To determine whether a request (or refusal of such a request) is reasonable, consider the following:

  • the employee’s personal circumstances (family responsibilities)
  • whether the employee could reasonably expect you to ask them to work on the public holiday
  • the needs of your business and the nature of work performed by your employee
  • the type of employment (eg. full-time, part-time or casual)
  • whether the employee’s contract includes work on a public holiday
  • how much notice you give your employee in advance of the public holiday when making the request
  • how much notice your employee gives you in advance of the public holiday in refusing the request
  • whether your employee is entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates, additional remuneration or other compensation that reflects an expectation of work on the public holiday
  • any other relevant matter

Employees are covered by the national workplace relations system, regardless of any award, agreement or contract. An award or agreement may include provisions for you and your employee to agree to substitute the day or part-day for another day or part-day. In doing so, be sure to not use any unnecessary pressure on your employee in relation to agreeing to substitute a public holiday for another day or part-day.

Pay and employment conditions

Public holidays are popular, but they can often create payroll issues for small businesses when considering penalty rates and what to do if an employee refuses to work on a public holiday. You may avoid costly mistakes by understanding the required pay and employment conditions.

If you ask staff to work on a public holiday you may be required to pay penalty rates for each hour worked on the day, time in lieu, or equivalent time added to their annual leave in respect of each hour worked on the day.

There are two industrial relations (IR) systems operating in Western Australia, the state system and the national Fair Work system. Your obligations will differ depending on what system applies to your business.

The state IR system

The state system includes businesses and employees that are:

  • sole traders
  • unincorporated partnerships
  • unincorporated trust arrangements
  • incorporated associations that are not trading or financial corporations and other not-for-profit organisations that are not trading or financial corporations

An employee’s pay and working entitlements will depend on their specific employment arrangements. If you need a full-time or part-time employee to work on a day on which a public holiday falls, then they are entitled to a paid day off for that day. If they are not ordinarily required to work on a day on which a public holiday falls, they will not be entitled to a paid day off for that day.

Information is available about public holiday pay and entitlements for state system employees. If you are unsure if a WA award applies to you or your business, or need more information, contact Wageline or visit their finding the right pay rate page.

The national Fair Work system

The national Fair Work system covers Western Australian businesses that are constitutional corporations including:

  • Pty Ltd businesses or financial corporations
  • incorporated associations that are trading or financial corporations and other not-for-profit organisations that are trading or financial corporations

Employees within the national Fair Work system get paid their base rate for all hours worked on a public holiday 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

Most employees are entitled to penalty rates for working on a public holiday, these are set by the award or enterprise agreement your employee is under. Some awards and agreements allow staff and employers to agree to substitute the public holiday for a different day, get time off in lieu, or have a day added to their annual leave balance. If an employee covered by a WA award works on a public holiday the minimum they must be paid for the hours they work on that public holiday is the wage rate specified in the award or agreement, including any public holiday penalty rates, even if they are paid above award rates.

For more information on pay obligations, penalty rates and allowances, minimum wages, pay slips and record keeping requirements within the national fair work system contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Charging a public holiday surcharge

Some business owners may wish to recoup the additional costs of operating on a public holiday by charging their customers a temporary higher price (a surcharge).

Under the Australian Consumer Law most businesses must display a single price that is the total of all measurable costs. However, cafes and restaurants are exempt from these requirements as long as the menu or pricing display clearly and prominently includes wording that “a surcharge of [percentage] applies on [the specified day or days]”. The intent is that customers immediately understand that the listed price displayed is not actually the final price that they will be charged on those days.

More information

Learn more about your obligations as an employer including, pay and employment conditions, tax and superannuation, keeping employment records, leave entitlements and ensuring a safe workplace. If you need additional staff to cover the busy festive season, read about hiring Christmas casuals

Legal and risk
24 February 2023