Bosses must ask workers if they want to work public holidays in Australia

Bosses must ask workers if they want to work public holidays and can’t automatically roster them on following a landmark court case in Australia

  • Workers must be asked to be on holiday rosters

Bosses must ask workers if they want to work on public holidays before rostering them on.

This will apply to all workplaces and override whatever is written in existing contracts or agreements after a landmark court case.

The Federal Court of Australia found a business within mining giant BHP had fallen foul of the Fair Work Act by forcing miners to work on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

The case was won on appeal brought the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union as it represented workers from the Daunia Mine, near Moranbah in central Queensland against BHP labour provider OS MCAP. 

The case concerned 85 employees who were forced to work Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2019 without extra compensation.

The judges pointed to the power imbalance between employers and workers, saying bosses can only reasonably request someone to work, not command them to, according to the Fair Work act which governs all Australian workplaces.

‘The intended mischief the provision confronts is the inherent power imbalance that exists between employers and employees,’ the decision said. 

‘By virtue of this imbalance, employees will often feel compelled, and not understand, that they have the capacity to refuse a request that is unreasonable or where their own refusal is reasonable. 

‘The requirement that there be a “request” rather than a unilateral command prompts the capacity for discussion, negotiation and a refusal.’