How small businesses should plan for Australia Day

Employsure Senior Employment Relations Adviser Jonathan Wilson offers some pointers for small businesses as Australia Day approaches.

Mr Wilson says the biggest issue they face on public holidays is “balancing competing priorities”. He identifies these as cashflow, customer expectations and managing staff, among others.

“For small business owners, public holidays can mean changes in customer and staff behaviour,” he said. “These issues can have an increased impact on a business on what is an already busy time of year.

“It’s important that business owners and employers prepare and forecast for their business needs.”

Remember – penalty rates apply

This year, Australia Day lands on Saturday January 26. This means the public holiday itself will fall on Monday January 28.

“Keep in mind the Saturday is not considered a public holiday,” Mr Wilson said. “So you will not need to pay public holiday rates for staff working on the Saturday.”

For those working on January 28, a series of new penalty rates (which came into effect in late 2017) will apply for workers in the following industries:

  • Restaurant
  • Hospitality
  • Pharmacy
  • Fast food
  • Retail industries.

Mr Wilson advises employers to check employee Awards or Enterprise Agreements, which will set out their entitlements.

“Generally, employees are entitled to be paid penalty rates on a public holiday,” he said. “The Awards can also provide additional entitlements or requirements when employees work on public holidays. These might include an extra day of annual leave or an alternative day off.

“Ensure you check the provisions of the Awards or Agreements that apply to your business and employees. Also check their contracts of employment for any terms relevant to a public holiday, such as minimum engagement periods.”

Is it worth staying open?

According to Mr Wilson, some small business owners may decide it’s not worth trading on a public holiday.

“Consider the impact public-holiday entitlements and penalty rates can have on a small business forecast revenue,” he said. “For example, before deciding to trade on a public holiday, you should take time to check the minimum rates that apply. Doing this will allow you to forecast and budget staffing levels, expenditure and revenue expectations.

“You should also consider any other required obligations, such as required or restricted trading hours.”

Preparing for sickies

Mr Wilson also says sickies are inevitable, so small business must prepare for them.

“Like it or not, many people consider it un-Australian not to chuck a few sickies,” he said. “Regardless of whether you’re in retail, hospitality or work in an office, January 25 and January 29 will be the two days either side of Australia day employers must plan for.”

Finally, he adds, the impact of sickies on the workplace is much greater than the actual financial cost of wages.

“It can have a direct impact on customer service, sales and places unnecessary stress on your remaining staff,” he said.

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