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Public holiday entitlements for shift work spanning two days

If I work a shift that spans two days, what are my public holiday entitlements?

Generally it is accepted that a public holiday runs from midnight to midnight. Therefore, if an employee works on any part of that calendar day (that is a public holiday) they are entitled to time and a half for the time worked on the day, and an alternative holiday (if the day the public holiday falls on would otherwise be a working day for the employee).

For example, if an employee's shift runs from Sunday night at 7pm to Monday morning at 3am, and Monday happens to be a public holiday, the employee is entitled to: 

  •  Five hours at their normal Sunday rate for the hours 7pm-12am; and
  • Time and a half of their regular pay (or average daily pay, if applicable) as it relates to time actually worked on the day or, if greater, their regular pay including penal rates, for the hours 12am to 3am on the Monday. This is because they worked three hours on the actual public holiday; and
  • An alternative holiday (if Monday is otherwise a working day for the employee).

As an alternate option to the measures described above the Holidays Act 2003 allows employees working shifts that span two days to transfer the public holiday, by agreement with their employer, so that the public holiday covers one whole shift. The 'day' a public holiday is transferred to must be a period of 24 hours that begins or ends on the actual public holiday and includes the whole of a shift the employee is due to work.

Taking the example above, an employee is scheduled to work from Sunday night at 7pm to Monday morning at 3am (shift 1) and Monday happens to be a public holiday. The employee is scheduled to work the same shift beginning on Monday night and finishing on Tuesday morning (shift 2). The employer and employee could agree to transfer the public holiday to coincide with the start of shift 2 (as this shift begins on the actual public holiday). If the public holiday is transferred in this way, the employee would be entitled to:

  • Payment at the rate appropriate to shift 1 (i.e. no penal rates apply); and 
  •  Their relevant daily pay or average daily pay for shift 2, if the employee does not work that shift; or 

  • The greater of time and a half of their regular pay (excluding penal rates), or, if applicable, time and a half of their average daily pay as it relates to time actually worked on the day (excluding penal rates), compared to their regular pay in addition to any penal rates they receive for working on the day and an alternative holiday, if the employee does work that shift.

The agreement to transfer the public holiday must be in writing so that both parties are clear about their public holiday arrangements. It is good practice to include it as part of an employment agreement.

From 1 April 2011 all employees will be able to request that a public holiday be transferred to another day. Click here to find out more.

Use our 
Holidays and Leave Tool to work out entitlements for public holidays, and sickness and bereavement leave.

Date Modified: Thursday, 31 May 2012

Disclaimer: The content on this website covers common problems. It will not answer every question and should not be used as a substitute for legislation or legal advice.State sector employers and employees may be affected by some differences in the laws that apply to them (e.g. State Sector Act 1988).The Department of Labour takes no responsibility for the results of any actions taken on the basis of information on this website, nor for any errors or omissions.