Managing people

Sick leave on a public holiday

If an employee is sick on a public holiday, should payment for the day be as a public holiday or as personal/carer’s leave? Learn more about sick leave and public holiday entitlements here.

4 June 2024

When an employee is ill on a public holiday, questions often arise as to what entitlement is due.

The Fair Work Act

According to the Fair Work Act (s98), if the period an employee takes paid personal/carer’s leave includes a day or part day that is a public holiday, the employee is taken to be on the public holiday and not absent on paid personal/carer’s leave. They must therefore be paid for the public holiday. 

Annual leave and public holidays

If a public holiday falls during a period of annual leave, an employee is paid for the public holiday. This includes any hours that fall on a part-day public holiday. 

Under the Fair Work Act (s89), if a public holiday (or part-holiday) falls during a period of annual leave, or a period where an employee is eligible for personal/carer’s leave (including compassionate leave) or community service leave, the employee is taken not to be on annual leave for each day eligible for the other leave or public holiday.

The period of annual leave is not extended by any such absence, but the employee is to be re-credited annual leave for each day of eligible absence. 

Unpaid leave and public holidays

An employee isn’t paid for any public holiday that falls during a time when the employee is on unpaid leave. 

Long service leave

Whether a public holiday extends a period of long service leave will depend on the relevant Commonwealth, state or territory long service leave legislation.

Payment for holidays not worked

Under the Fair Work Act (s116), an employee is to be paid at their ‘base rate of pay’ for their ordinary hours of work when absent on a specified public holiday. 

Base rate of pay is an employee’s ordinary rate of pay excluding incentive-based payments and bonuses, loadings, monetary allowances, overtime or penalty rates or any other separately identifiable amounts.

This means an employee will be paid at their ordinary rate of pay excluding the appropriate public holiday penalty payment (had the employee worked) provided by the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement. 


When it comes to pay and employment conditions you must comply with all the relevant laws – regardless of how many people you employ. Get it wrong and you could face hefty penalties.

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