Is It Legal to Open My Business on Public Holidays?

So you want to strengthen your business by taking advantage of public holidays. However, you do not want to get into trouble since you are not familiar with the rules in this area.

Whether your business can open on public holidays depends on the state or territory your business is in. While the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory impose no restrictions, each state may have set aside certain public holidays as “restricted trading days”, for which you would need an exemption to open. The rules surrounding the restricted days and exemptions differ from state to state.

Table of Contents

New South Wales

The Retail Trading Act 2008 sets out the rules for opening businesses on public holidays in NSW.

The restricted trading days in NSW are:

  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday
  • Anzac Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day

The restriction on Anzac Day applies only until 1pm. Additionally, the Boxing Day restriction does not apply if the staff “have freely elected to work on that day.” The statute specifies that businesses cannot satisfy this requirement by pressuring their staff to work or by merely rostering their staff to work on that day.

Exempt businesses include:

  • Bazaars, fairs or markets if the bazaars, fairs or markets are conducted for charitable or public fundraising purposes
  • Book shops
  • Cake and pastry shops
  • Chemists shops
  • Cooked provision shops
  • Florists shops
  • Fruit and vegetable shops
  • Newsagencies
  • Nurseries
  • Pet shops
  • Recorded music, video or DVD shops
  • Restaurants, cafes or kiosks
  • Seafood shops
  • Shops ancillary to venues for playing sport or physical recreation
  • Souvenir shops
  • Take-away food and drink shops
  • Tobacconists shops
  • Vehicle shops, vehicle service centres or petrol stations

These businesses are only exempt if their staff “have freely elected to work on that day.” Additionally, some small businesses with 4 or fewer staff may be exempt. Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarkets are exempt on the Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Anzac Day of 2020, provided that the staff “have freely elected to work on that day.”

Businesses which are not exempt can still apply for an exemption.

Fair Trading NSW can assist with further questions. Go to their webpage for more information.

Queensland

The Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990 sets out the relevant rules in Queensland.

The restricted trading days in Queensland are:

  • Good Friday
  • Anzac Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Labour Day

Queensland has a similar longer list of exempt businesses.

Additionally, independent retailers with 30 or fewer people engaged in the single shop and 100 or fewer staff throughout all shops in Queensland may be partially exempt. The independent retailer exemption does not apply to:

  • Good Friday
  • Christmas Day
  • Anzac Day before 1pm

Go here for more information.

South Australia

In SA, the Shop Trading Hours Act 1977 and Holidays Act 1910 set out the relevant rules.

Generally, shops that are outside the Central Business District (CBD) Tourist Precinct cannot open on:

  • New Years Day
  • Easter Sunday
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • Other public holidays in the Holidays Act 1910

If a shop is in a shopping district, it can open on weekday part-day public holidays.

Shops that are in the CBD Tourist Precinct cannot open on Good Friday, Christmas Day, and Anzac Day before noon, but can open on from 11am-5pm on other public holidays.

The Minister has the power to announce additional restrictions or exemptions that are not specified in the statutes.

This webpage announces some year to year holiday trading arrangements. For additional information about public holidays in SA, go here.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, the Shop Trading Hours Act 1984 prevents large retailers with more than 250 employees from opening on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Additionally, the Anzac Day Observance Act 1929 prohibits shops from opening until 12:30pm on Anzac Day. Like the NSW and Queensland rules, there is a short list of exempt businesses including pharmacies, newsagents, restaurants, service stations, and motor vehicle dealerships. Furthermore, businesses must have their employees’ written consent to work that day. Businesses that are not on the list may apply to the Minister for an exemption.

For more information on public holidays generally, go here. For more information on the Anzac Day rules, go here.

Victoria

Restricted trading days in Victoria include:

  • Good Friday
  • Christmas Day
  • Anzac Day

While the restriction on Anzac Day on applies before 1pm for most businesses, businesses that are factories, warehouses, or manufacturers are restricted for the entire day.

Some exemptions to the restrictions include chemists, service stations, cooked food shops, service providers, and hire shops. Additionally, businesses that use 20 or fewer employees in their shop on the restricted day and have 100 or fewer employees in the week prior to that day may be exempt. However, entertainment and real estate auction businesses cannot be exempt on Anzac Day.

Go here for more information.

Western Australia

In WA, businesses can open for most public holidays from 11am-5pm. However, they can open from 8am-6pm on Easter Monday, WA Day, and the Queen’s Birthday, but must not open Good Friday, ANZAC Day, and Christmas Day.

Small retail businesses that have fewer than 5 shops and operate with 6 or fewer people per shop can apply for an exemption that allows them to remain open at all times throughout the year. Additionally, “special retail shops” can apply for an exemption that allows them to open from 6am-11:30pm throughout the year.

Again, employees must have given their consent to work on a public holiday.

Go here for more information.

So what should you do?

It is an offence to open your business without an exemption during a restricted time. Therefore, you should make every effort to comply with the rules. However, these rules may be subject to change. Additionally, depending on your business, you may have further obligations that you must comply with, including award agreements. It is best to consult a lawyer to ensure that you do not unknowingly commit an offence.

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