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Should you allow employees to work on holidays in exchange for extra leave?

Workplace flexibility on public holidays: Survey reveals employee preferences and potential solutions

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When pay raises aren’t feasible, companies must explore creative tailored solutions.
Majority of employees were content with working on public holidays.

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Employee preferences on public holidays and flexible work policies

Earlier this year, employers throughout Australia found themselves in a divisive situation regarding whether to permit their employees to work on Australia Day, a public holiday mired in ongoing controversy.

Some prominent employers, including Telstra, University of Wollongong, Ten Network, BHP, KPMG Australia, among others, adopted flexible policies. These policies allowed employees to work on Australia Day and opt for another day off, attempting to navigate the contentious issue.

Despite past controversies surrounding such arrangements, it appears that a significant portion of Australia’s workforce is open to similar workplace flexibility in the future. A survey conducted by Perkbox Australia among more than 2,400 employees revealed that 58% of respondents were willing to work on public holidays in exchange for an extra day of annual leave.

In contrast, only 38.6% of those surveyed expressed a preference for taking a day off on Australia Day. The survey highlighted the fact that the majority of employees were content with working on public holidays in return for an additional day off.

Personalising staff benefits could play a crucial role in boosting workplace engagement

This sentiment extended to other public holidays, such as Labour Day and the King’s Birthday, where only 30.4% and 28.7% of respondents, respectively, indicated a preference for not working.

However, there were some exceptions, as the report found that a significant majority (83.6%) of employees did not wish to work on Christmas Day, even if it meant receiving extra paid leave. Similarly, most employees preferred not to work on New Year’s Day (71.1%) and Good Friday (50.5%).

These findings have substantial implications in light of the challenges employees face in terms of engagement and financial well-being. According to Ross McDonald, country lead for Perkbox Australia, “When pay raises aren’t feasible, companies must explore creative, tailored solutions to address employee challenges.”

McDonald further emphasised that personalising staff benefits could play a crucial role in boosting workplace engagement, noting, “Allowing a team member to work on a public holiday in exchange for additional leave is a straightforward change for most workplaces, but it can serve as a meaningful reward for that team member.”


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