EB11: Opting out of additional annual leave and public holidays

Published: 26 July 2023

Clause 35.3 of EB11 allows nurses and midwives to opt out of receiving their fifth week of annual leave in exchange for not having to work or be available to work on public holidays. This applies to services provided in public hospitals that close on public holidays.

Members have been contacting the QNMU with questions about when they can take advantage of this new entitlement and if they are eligible. 

What’s the hold up?

All Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) were required to develop their lists of units that fit the criteria for nurses within those units to opt out of the additional annual leave. They should have also consulted on the lists at their Nursing and Midwifery Consultative Forums (NaMCFs) to ensure there was agreement that the lists were correct.  

This should have been completed months ago so that correct lists could be provided to the central Nursing and Midwifery Implementation Group (NaMIG) so the lists could be published and nurses and midwives could opt out if they were eligible.  

Unfortunately, it appears that few, if any, HHSs complied with the requirements to consult at NaMCFs and when the lists were received by NaMIG they were almost all incorrect.  

It has therefore been decided that the QNMU and QH management will meet with each of the 16 HHSs this week to make sure we have correct, agreed lists so members can opt out of working public holidays in time for the Show Holidays in Brisbane and the South East corner from the week commencing 7 August. Unfortunately, the HHS delays have meant some regional show holidays have already been missed.  

Some things that HHSs and nurses and midwives must be aware of in the implementation of this provision are:

Whole unit must close on the public holiday

The clause only applies if the whole unit or service closes on public holidays.  It does not apply when an individual does not usually work on public holidays but their unit or service or ward still operates. 
For example, Nurse Unit Managers are not in scope in the clause as their wards operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The NUM might rarely or never work on public holidays but the ward is open.

Community facilities are out of scope

To be included on the lists, a unit must be covered by the public hospital provisions of EB11. That is, it is a unit that attracts a minimum of five weeks of annual leave.  

Many HHSs have put Community facilities and services on their lists because they close on public holidays. This is incorrect. Community facilities are out of scope!

This clause does not affect you if you already have public holidays off

If you don’t usually work on a public holiday now, do not be persuaded to opt out of the additional week of annual leave to continue to have public holidays off. This clause was put into EB11 to assist members whose services close on public holidays but who were routinely required to hold themselves on ‘stand by’ to possibly be redeployed to a ward to cover leave on public holidays.  

For example, if you are a nurse educator and you almost always have public holidays off, there is no need to opt out of the additional week of annual leave to continue having all or most of the public holidays off.

Opting out is completely voluntary

You cannot be made to opt out of the entitlement to the additional week of annual leave and working on public holidays.

If you work in a unit that closes on a public holiday but you want to continue to be available to work some public holidays and still get five weeks’ annual leave, that is totally at your discretion. If you do not want to change your arrangements, don’t.

The QNMU is working very hard to have this entitlement available by Friday 4 August so members can fill in the “opt out” form in time for the Show Day holidays. We are hopeful the forms will be available on QHEPS by 4 August. You will be notified by your employer and by the QNMU when the forms are available.

If you have any questions about this issue please contact your local QNMU Organiser.