CPSU Members #ChangetheDate at Work: Substituting Public Holidays


In the lead up to January 26, the CPSU has heard from several members who have requested to substitute their 26 January public holiday out of respect to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some of these requests were approved, others were not.  

Why the difference? To answer that question, let’s dig into the different options and entitlements around substituting public holidays in the Agreements that cover CPSU members outside our State Service. Below we break down what’s in your Enterprise Agreement, at a glance, before showing the detail for workers in TasWater, Sustainable Timber Tasmania, AHPRA and UTAS.  

Public Sector Enterprise Agreements – At a Glance: 

The Detail – Click to Jump to Your Agreement:

→ TasWater




Under your Agreement (§ 57.2) any worker or group of workers may, by agreement with TasWater, take an alternative day as a public holiday in lieu of any holidays prescribed in your Agreement. This includes New Year’s Day, Australia Day, Labour Day (however named), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, Queen’s Birthday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Anzac Day. 

TasWater’s Agreement provides that an Employee who works Ordinary Hours of Work on a public holiday will be paid Ordinary Rates of Pay plus a penalty of 150%, with any overtime worked on this day paid at double time and a half. If you request to work on a public holiday and substitute your day off, your employer may ask that you agree you will only be paid Ordinary Rates of Pay, rather than overtime or other penalty rates.   


→ University of Tasmania Staff Agreement 2021 – 2025


Any member covered by the University of Tasmania Staff Agreement may substitute any prescribed public holiday with another day by agreement with the University (§56.3). Unlike the TasWater Agreement, this doesn’t stipulate that approval is subject to business requirements, however a request may still be rejected on these grounds.  

The Agreement provides that Professional Employees, other than Casual Employees, who work on a public holiday will receive time off in lieu, except where overtime payment is claimed (§56.4). If you request to work on a public holiday and substitute your day off, your employer may ask that you agree you will only be paid Ordinary Rates of Pay, rather than overtime or other penalty rates.   




The Sustainable Timber Tasmania 2021 Enterprise Agreement replaces a clause from the 2018 Agreement which provided that, “By agreement between the employer and the majority of employees, other days may be substituted,” for any prescribed public holiday.  

This entitlement no longer exists. However, members can still discuss the option of substituting the day with their employer.

CPSU Member Mark recently approached his manager about substituting the days so he could continue to work on a day that remains a deep source of hurt for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. They agreed.

STT has an Reconciliation Action Committee and is actively discussing the option of allowing employees to “change it ourselves.”

If you request to work on a public holiday and substitute your day off, your employer may ask that you agree you will only be paid Ordinary Rates of Pay, rather than overtime or other penalty rates.   


→ Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Enterprise Agreement 2022-2025


Your newly negotiated AHPRA Agreement introduces a clause, for the first time, facilitating substituting a public holiday. Under your new Agreement any employee may, by mutual agreement with their manager, work on a public holiday (§36.5). You must agree on the substitution day and/or date when this agreement is made. Workers will not be eligible to receive public holiday penalty rates for work performed on the public holiday. 

This Agreement goes one step further, requiring that agreement will not be unreasonably withheld if the employee wishes to exercise the request for substitution for cultural or religious reasons. However all other requests will be considered on the basis of employee and operational requirements. This is by far the strongest clause in any public sector Enterprise Agreement.  


→ TasTAFE New Agreements Yet to be Negotiated


Following the passage of the TasTAFE (Skills and Training Business) Act 2021, TasTAFE now operates as a not-for-profit government business outside of the Tasmanian State Service. Having now entered the Fair Work industrial relations system, TasTAFE is required to negotiate new agreements with its professional and teaching staff.  

While this is planned for 2023, no Agreements currently exist. So where do you stand? In 2021 both TasTAFE and Premier Rockliff made a commitment that salary and conditions would be maintained for workers until a new TasTAFE Agreement was negotiated. What this should mean is that you should be able to access the same entitlements as you did when you were still covered by the Tasmanian State Service Award. In this case, no specific right or entitlement exists around public holidays, and again falls to the discretion of your manager.  

It’s time to change that. If you’d like to see a Right to Substitute Public Holidays in your first TasTAFE Enterprise Agreement, the CPSU is looking for bargaining reps in each part of the state. If you’re interested in getting involved as a bargaining rep, workplace contact or CPSU Delegate, contact Natalie Jones at n.jones@tas.cpsu.com.au!  

If you’re interested in nominating to be a CPSU Delegate head to https://www.cpsu.com.au/delegates/ for more information and a nomination form!  

The CPSU has heard from members who have had their requests to substitute their 26 January public holiday approved, as well as from some who were rejected.   

The takeaway: because the options we’ve covered today aren’t rights, they remain subject to the ‘unfettered discretion’ of your manager or employer. This means they may decline a request for any reason, no matter how arbitrary.   

That’s why all public sector workers, wherever you work, should have an iron-clad right in their agreements to substitute public holidays.  

Premier Jeremy Rockliff has publicly voiced his support for the #ChangetheDate campaign. He could back up his words with action by allowing all public sector workers the option not to work on this day. This year the CPSU wrote to Premier Jeremy Rockliff asking him to give State Services employees the right to swap the Australia Day holiday for another day off. Despite his public support for the change, he never responded.  

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