How to substitute a public holiday?

Occasionally an employer may wish to substitute a public holiday for another day for various reasons; a public holiday might fall midweek, so the employer may seek to substitute that day for either a Friday or a Monday to give their staff a long weekend.

The process that an employer must follow to correctly implement a substitution of a public holiday will depend on whether the employees are award-covered or award-free.

Award-covered employees

If an employee is covered by a modern award and the award allows substitution of a public holiday, then a public holiday can be substituted for another day by agreement between the employer and employee. If the award does not allow substitution, then substitution will not be possible.

Award-free employees

An employer and an employee who is award-free may agree to substitute a public holiday for another day. It is recommended that the agreement is made in writing.

What happens if substitution has occurred?

If agreement has been reached to substitute, then the public holiday becomes a ‘normal day’ and the substituted public holiday becomes the public holiday.

This means that if employees work on the day which is now the ‘normal day’, they will be paid normal wages. If the employees work on the substituted public holiday, they may be entitled to public holiday penalty rates.


Jane normally works Monday-Friday and is covered by the General Retail Industry Award 2020. Clause 33.2 of that award allows an employer and an employee to agree to substitute a public holiday for another day.

A public holiday is scheduled for a Thursday. Rather than close the shop for one day and then re-open on Friday, Jane’s employer asks if she is happy to substitute the public holiday for the Friday instead.

Jane agrees to this request and works as normal on Thursday. Friday is taken as the substituted public holiday and Jane has the day off.

What records should an employer keep?

As with most employment related matters, it is recommended that an employer keeps a written record of when a substitution of a public holiday has occurred.

This can be a simple letter or email, or in some cases it could even be a text message.

This is to ensure compliance with the relevant award, but also to avoid any possible dispute arising.

More information

For more information about public holidays, including any relevant penalty rates, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.