Woman in a Black Top Working on Her Laptop Christmas Office

Can You Direct Your Staff To Take Christmas Off?

Christmas is coming and businesses need to start planning their end-of-year holiday season, and how they will operate through this period.

Does your business get busier and need employees to work more hours or through Public Holidays? Or, does your business shut down or work with a ‘skeleton staff’ over Christmas/New Years?

We’ve got all the details on how your business might be affected by the rules and entitlements that come into play this time of year.

Required Annual Leave During a Shutdown

If your business is shutting down for the holiday season, you may be able to direct your employees to take annual leave. This depends on the award or any relevant registered agreement.

Most awards lay out how and when you can direct your staff to take annual leave, and in most cases, the direction must be;

  • reasonable,
  • in writing, and
  • given to affected employees within the required notice period.

Some awards will also specify when you can run a shut down or closure period, like the end of the year.

Most awards have updated clauses about annual leave during shutdowns. But, every award and agreement is different, so you should check to make sure before you give employees any directions to use annual leave.

You can check which award may apply to your staff here.

If your staff are employed award-free, you can only direct them to take annual leave if the direction is reasonable.

Employees Without Enough Annual Leave to Cover a Shutdown

If the staff member doesn’t have enough annual leave to cover your shut down period there are several options.

If their award or agreement allows it, you can come to an agreement with the employee to take annual leave before they’ve accrued it or unpaid leave.

Awards and Agreements Without Shutdown Rules

If your staff are employed under an award that doesn’t have rules allowing shut down directions then you can’t direct them to take annual leave.

However, you can come to an independent agreement with your staff to take annual leave, or unpaid leave, over the holiday season.

Working Through a Shut Down or Public Holiday

If one of your employees continues working when your business is shut down, they should receive their normal pay.  If there is a public holiday during the shutdown, employees should still be given the day off without loss of pay, or they should be paid the public holiday rates under their award or agreement if they work.

You can ask your employees to work overtime or on a public holiday if it’s reasonable. However, they can decline the request if they have a valid reason.

If you are requesting that an employee work on a public holiday, you need to consider all relevant circumstances. Whether a request is reasonable depends on several things, including:

  • the needs of the business
  • the role and responsibility of the employee
  • the employee’s personal commitments, like family or caring arrangements
  • how much notice the employee gets about the extra hours
  • what the employee’s contract says.

If an employee works overtime or on a public holiday, their award or registered agreement may give them additional entitlements such as:

  • penalty rates
  • a different day off
  • extra annual leave.

For more questions about business operations through the festive season, check out the Fair Work Australia resources.

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