Laws to make Christmas Day a public holiday passed by SA’s Lower House

Major legislative change to South Australia’s public holidays could soon be on the horizon, with the SA Lower House officially passing legislation to recognise Christmas Day as a public holiday.

With Christmas Day landing on a Saturday this year, the SA government had previously stated that public holiday penalties would not be awarded to Christmas Day essential workers. This legislative change is seeking to change that.

Under current legislation, public holidays landing on weekends carries over the following Monday. South Australia is the only state to not award penalty rates to workers on Christmas Day or recognise the day as a public holiday.

The legislation, which passed the Lower House today, would only come into effect if Christmas Day was to again fall on a weekend.

However, while the public holiday recognition passed, a major amendment was included in the official legislation. Staff working Christmas Eve will no longer receive penalty rates for their hours, with the public holiday pay instead awarded to those working on Christmas Day. The amendment was introduced by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.

It was voted by the Liberal Part that a pay cut will be implemented for South Australian working Christmas Eve, including frontline workers such as retail workers, hospitality workers, nurses, paramedics and police officers.

The move comes after Labor and the Greens have been fighting for workers to receive penalty rates for working Christmas Day. 

Our essential frontline workers, such as retail workers, nurses, ambos and police officers, have been the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Kyam Maher.

“Tonight, thousands of South Australian workers will go home and realize they could now face a pay cut on Christmas Eve.”

The SDA – the state’s largest union – says the finalised change is imperative before the busy season arrives.

“Any delay will see workers and businesses left in limbo in the lead up to the busiest time of year,” said SDA Secretary Josh Peak earlier this month.

The amended legislation will now pass back to the Upper House for approval before the change is finalised.

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