Leave entitlements for screen crew over the holidays
Every year MEAA fields enquiries from members working on screen productions about their entitlement to paid public holidays over the Christmas/New Year period.
As most productions call an unpaid hiatus over the period, it’s not a simple yes/no answer.
Crew whose contracts end before Christmas aren’t entitled to the public holidays, but if you’re coming back after the hiatus you may be entitled to be paid.
MEAA’s position is based on what’s in the Fair Work Act, which says that if you are on paid leave and a public holiday falls due, then you are entitled to be paid the public holiday instead of using up your paid leave.
However, if you’re on unpaid leave (like a hiatus) and a public holiday falls due, you’re not entitled to be paid. So, to be paid the public holidays, you need to be able to replace the unpaid hiatus with a period of paid annual leave.
Offshore Film and Offshore Television
A clause in the agreements covering these productions specifically addresses this question. Accrued annual leave only needs to be able to cover the gap up to the public holidays. The agreement says that crew do not have to apply for or take the annual leave to be entitled to the public holiday payment, they just need to have accrued it.
Example: Your last day before hiatus is Friday, December 17, so you need to have accrued five days’ annual leave to cover Monday, December 20 - Friday, December 24. Weekends and the public holidays are not included in the calculations. You don’t need to apply for or take your annual leave to be paid Xmas Day or Boxing Day. You would need to have an additional three days’ annual leave accrued to be entitled to the New Year’s Day public holiday as well.
Accrued annual leave needs to overlap the public holidays. You need to be on paid annual leave to be entitled to the paid public holidays.
Example: Your last day is Friday, December 17. You need to have accrued more than five days’ accrued annual leave to overlap the holidays i.e. five days to cover Monday, December 20 - Friday, December 24 plus some going into the next working day, Wednesday, December 29. Weekends and the public holidays are not included in the calculations. You would need to have an additional three days’ annual leave to be entitled to the New Year’s Day public holiday as well. You need to apply to take your annual leave over the period to also be entitled to the paid public holidays.
How to find out if you’re eligible
Check on your latest pay slip or ask your accounts department to find out how much accrued annual leave you have.
If you’re working on a MPPA production and have enough leave to get you past any of the public holidays, apply for that leave ASAP. Employers are not allowed to unreasonably refuse your application for annual leave, and we have written to each production so that they are aware of your rights.
MEAA wishes you a happy and safe holiday period and we’ll see you back on and off set in the new year.