Staff notice requirements before the Christmas shutdown

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Are you planning to shut down your business over the Christmas and New Year period? It's never too early (or too late) to start planning.

Businesses planning to shutdown across the festive season, need to confirm close dates and notify staff in accordance with Award requirements from now.

Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Messina Angelis says, "The most important step is to check the conditions relating to your right to send employees on an annual shutdown. This will depend on the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreements that apply for your business and will outline the minimum required notice period to notify your employees."

Employees covered by an Award.

Most Awards will contain terms which allow employers to send employees on an annual shutdown. This is usually subject to an employer giving affected employees at least four weeks' notice, although an Award may require a greater period of notice. For example, the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010, requires an employer to give at least two months' notice of a shutdown. In another example, under the Security Services Industry Award 2010, an employer must provide at least one months' notice in writing before the leave needs to be taken. The Hair and Beauty Award 2010, it is four weeks' notice.

Award or Agreement free employees.

The Fair Work Act allows employers who may require an Award or Agreement free employee to take a period of paid annual leave, but only if the request is reasonable. "A 'reasonable request' would be if your business is due to shutdown for a period during Christmas and the New Year," she said.

Matters that can be agreed between the employer and an Award or Agreement free employee include:

  • for paid annual leave to be taken in advance of accrual (when the period of the shutdown exceeds an employee's annual leave balance)
  • for a specified period of notice must be given before taking annual leave, e.g. four weeks' notice, and
  • the form of application for paid annual leave

"Make sure you follow any rules under the Award or Agreement about notifying staff and what should happen during the shutdown. If the Award or Agreement doesn't say anything about shutdowns or directions to take leave, you can't force employees to use their leave. Instead, you can negotiate with them to take paid or unpaid leave but if they don't agree, you can't force them."

According to Ms Angelis the end of year festive season can be two sided: "Most employees want the festive season off from work to rest and recharge. However, some businesses have the reverse intent - service-based businesses that wish to operate across a key period and meet increased customer demand."

Ms Angelis says the end of year festive season can be a quiet period for many businesses however, for those in the hospitality, restaurant, and retail industry, "This is the key season for fixed term and casual work and some industries are looking to bolster their workforce and fill specific jobs and meet the increased customer demand."

For those businesses planning to stay open, Ms Angelis says, "During busy seasons, engaging employees on a casual or a fixed term basis will usually provide employers with the most flexibility in relation to fulfilling their resource requirements."

However, Ms Angelis warns employers to, "Be extra aware of the requirements and obligations to all employees over this key period such as extra pay or an extra day off, particularly on public holidays."

"If you aren't one of the businesses open over the Christmas period – it's important to check the conditions relating to your right to send employees on an annual closedown. Seek professional workplace relations advice."

Public holidays.

The various public holidays over the Christmas - New Year period:
 

  • Christmas Eve – Tuesday 24 December 2019 (Northern Territory and South Australia from 7pm-midnight)
  • Christmas Day – Wednesday 25 December 2019 (all states and territories)
  • Boxing Day – Thursday 26 December 2019 (all states and territories)
  • New Year's Eve – Tuesday 31 December 2020 (Northern Territory and South Australia from 7pm-midnight)
  • New Year's Day – Wednesday 1 January 2020 (all states and territories)
  • Australia Day – Monday 27 January 2020 (all states and territories)
 
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