Real estate trading: Anzac Day & Easter 2020
Can you believe it’s March already? And even though Christmas was about ten minutes ago, in another blink of an eye April will be here (and cooler temperatures to boot). And April brings a new quarter, a day of commemoration and a choc-loaded long weekend of festivities.
While real estate’s most devoted would readily work right through the holidays, there are some tricky legal issues to navigate regarding holiday trading. Fortunately for those go-getters across our industry, real estate agencies are categorised as an ‘office’ for the purpose of trading which means they can operate as usual over the Easter long weekend. That is, you can conduct inspections, open homes, auctions and the like.
Anzac Day is a different story. Conducting the business of selling real estate is totally prohibited under Section 34 of the Trading Hours Act. While this means that conducting work associated with the leasing of real estate is permissible, any agencies that open for business need to ensure their sales staff are not attending the office nor conducting work remotely. As a result, open homes, meetings with clients and even responding to emails and phone calls related to work are all off limits. Trading law breaches come with a hefty fine too – up to $5,222 per breach for an individual and up to $26,110 for a corporation so be aware.
With regards to Section 115 of the Fair Work Act 2009, the entire Easter long weekend (incorporating Good Friday and Easter Monday) counts as public holidays. Anzac Day does too, though keep in mind that this year it falls on a Saturday (25 April, 2020) and there will not be a public holiday observed on the following Monday.
Section 114 of the aforementioned Act also says employers can (if reasonable) request their employees work on public holidays. In return, employees have the right to (again, if reasonable) refuse the request. The following factors are considered when determining if a request or refusal is reasonable:
- The nature of the workplace;
- The employee’s personal circumstances, including family responsibilities;
- Whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime, penalty rates, time in lieu, or a level of remuneration that reflects an expectation of work on public holidays; and,
- The amount of notice given.
Principals should be aware that full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to double time pay on all hours worked on a public holiday, with a minimum payment for three hours. That is, however, subject to individual flexibility agreements or annualised salary contracts which displace the provisions of the Real Estate Industry Award 2010. Breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 and/or the Real Estate Industry Award 2010 incur a penalty of up to $12,600 per breach for an individual and up to $63,000 for a corporation.
Finally, an easily forgotten yet equally important aspect to consider around public holidays is Queensland’s statutory five-day cooling-off period. In the event a buyer receives a signed contract on a weekend or public holiday, the cooling-off period will commence on the next business day. Therefore, agents should retain adequate records evidencing the date of delivery of any signed contract to a buyer in order to properly respond in the event of a cooling-off period dispute during this time.
Sadly, April Fool’s Day remains a regular working day, but watch this space in 2021!