Public holidays

With the Holy Month of Ramadan soon drawing to a close, there is much speculation on the number of public holidays which will be granted to employees for the occasion of Eid Al Fitr. With Renaissance Day (23 July) being so close to Eid Al Fitr this year, the public holidays are likely to be around 5 days resulting in most businesses shutting down for a full working week. The holidays bring up particular issues for employers whose operations are 24/7 and cannot shut down simply because of the holiday period but also for employers where the occasion of Eid Al Fitr falls on a weekend.

Legal entitlement

The provisions regarding public holidays are governed by Article 65 of the Labour Law. Private sector employees are entitled to take public holidays with full gross pay, as declared by the Minister of Manpower.

Points to note:

  • if a public holiday coincides with an employee's weekend or any other prescribed weekly rest day (for example, in the case of shift workers and rotational workers), the employee is entitled to an additional day off;
  • an employee is not entitled to additional days if a public holiday falls during the employee's annual leave (unless the employment contract, HR policy or the employer's custom and practice provides otherwise);
  •  if an employee works on a public holiday, then the employee is entitled to be compensated, either by an overtime payment or an additional day in lieu.

Holiday overtime pay rates

When an employee works on a public holiday, Article 65 provides that the employee is entitled to the gross salary for that day plus a minimum overtime payment of at least 25% of the gross salary (unless the employee opts to take a lieu day).

This is in contrast to the overtime rates prescribed by Article 73 which provides that overtime pay is calculated on the basic (and not the gross) salary. Employers should note that an employee working on a public holiday due to one of the reasons set out in Article 72 (for example, budget preparation, annual inventory, to prevent an accident or deal with its aftermath, or to carry out work of an extraordinary pressure) is entitled to double pay for that day (or a paid day off in lieu).

When requesting employees to work on a public holiday, employers will need to consider which of the prescribed overtime rates will apply and are advised to communicate this with employees in advance to avoid any potential dispute.

The Labour Law recognises that there are circumstances when employees are required to meet pressing work demands over a public holiday period, and such situations can fall under either Article 65 or Article 73. However, under Article 73, if employees are required to work to meet extraordinary pressure, the employer must notify the Ministry of Manpower within 24 hours giving details of the additional work required and the period of time required to complete the work. This indicates that Article 73 situations are exceptional and temporary which most scheduled shift or rotational work will fall outside the scope of. Therefore, it is likely that most overtime cases will fall under Article 65.