What is ‘reasonable’?
In determining whether requests or refusals are reasonable, the following must be considered:
- the nature of your workplace and the nature of an employee’s work
- an employee's personal circumstances, including family responsibilities
- whether an employee could reasonably expect they would be asked to work on the public holiday
- whether an employee is entitled to receive overtime, penalty payments or other compensation that reflects an expectation to work on public holidays
- the type of employment (e.g. full-time, part-time, casual, or shift work)
- the amount of notice given by an employer when making the request
- the amount of notice given by an employee when refusing the request.
In some cases, a single factor will be of great importance and outweigh all others. For example, the Explanatory Memorandum to the Fair Work Bill 2008 (paragraph numbers 449-454) states that where someone is employed in a workplace that requires a certain level of staffing on a public holiday, such as a hospital, and has been warned of the likelihood of working public holidays, a request to work may be considered reasonable.
On the other hand, an employee's refusal to work on a public holiday may be reasonable where, for instance, they notified their employer in advance they could not work because of family commitments.