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Should employees get the choice to exchange public holidays?

By Jack Campbell | |4 minute read

A study has found that the majority of employees would like the choice to exchange their public holiday time off for extra annual leave. Could this be another effective way to promote flexibility?

Allowing employees to exchange their annual leave could be a great way to keep workers happy, as a Perkbox study found that 58 per cent of people in Australia and New Zealand would take advantage of this choice if their workplace offered it.

“This survey shows the importance and power of personalisation of staff benefits in driving engagement in the workplace. Allowing a team member to work on a public holiday in exchange for extra leave is a simple change for most workplaces, but can serve as a powerful reward for that team member,” commented Perkbox Australia country lead Ross McDonald.

“Managers are facing unprecedented headwinds with regards to motivating and engaging teams. Escalating cost-of-living pressures combined with uncertain economic conditions are presenting a challenge for even the most savvy managers. When pay rises aren’t an option, companies need to consider creative, bespoke alternatives that address the challenges faced by the employee.”

The results found that employees would rather not work:

  1. Christmas Day (83.6 per cent)
  2. New Year’s Day (71.1 per cent)
  3. Good Friday (50.5 per cent)
  4. Anzac Day (42 per cent)
  5. Australia Day (38.6 per cent)
  6. Labour Day (30.4 per cent)
  7. King’s Birthday (28.7 per cent)

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day unsurprisingly ranked as the top days employees would rather not work. However, the majority were happy to work on King’s Birthday, Labour Day, and Australia Day in exchange for a day of leave.

This highlights a great opportunity for workplaces to boost flexibility and provide employees with greater autonomy over their time off.

Providing employees with flexibility has become increasingly important in the post-COVID-19 era of work.

“Flexibility has been overtaken by considerations such as career progression and enjoyment of the day’s work in terms of what workers see as the most important factors in a job … This represents a challenge for employers to meet the flexibility needs of workers,” said ADP in its People at Work 2023: A Global Workforce View report.

Workplaces can decide whether or not to implement this policy, as the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) notes employers can agree to this under the National Employment Standards.

“A substitute public holiday is an ordinary day that is treated like a public holiday instead of the actual public holiday … If a public holiday is substituted for a different day, then the actual public holiday is treated like a normal day,” said FWO.



Benefits include any additional incentives that encourage working a little bit more to obtain outcomes, foster a feeling of teamwork, or increase satisfaction at work. Small incentives may have a big impact on motivation. The advantages build on financial rewards to promote your business as a desirable employer.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.