Published October 2023
With only 2 months until Christmas, now is the time to start communicating with your team your intentions and theirs, over the Christmas and New Year period.
For some businesses, Christmas can be the busiest time of year where everyone will be required to keep working. On the other hand, some business may only require limited staff to be on deck (i.e. skeleton staff) or the business will have a shutdown period (also referred to as a close down) where employees will be requested to take annual leave for a specific period. You may have a combination of these across different locations or departments.
Hopefully by now, your business should know what will be happening over this period because it’s time to start notifying your staff of your intentions.
Most Awards and registered agreements allow employers to direct employees to take annual leave if a business chooses to shut down for a period, provided they give the required notice. Please note that notice requirements (the number of days, weeks or months) vary between Awards and agreements, and many have changed since 2022 (you can read about the changes here).
For example, under the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2020, the Award requires employers to notify employees of a shut down period by giving at least 28 days’ written notice (refer to clause 32.5).
Award-Covered employees: Click here to find out what notice is required to direct Award-covered employees to take annual leave during a shutdown period and new rules for taking leave during shutdown.
Employees covered by a registered agreement: You should check the registered agreement that applies to the employees – the requirements vary widely.
Non-Award or agreement employees: For employees that are not covered by an Award or agreement, the Fair Work Act 2009 does allow for employers to still be able to direct employees to use annual leave if the request is reasonable. The Fair Work Act uses a shutdown period (such as Christmas or New Year) as an example of what is a reasonable request.
Remember that in some businesses, there will be different notice requirements for different groups of employees depending on which industrial instrument they are covered by (ie. Award vs. Registered Agreement).
COMMUNICATING THE SHUTDOWN PERIOD
It is important that if you intend to shut down over the Christmas period (or any other period), you inform your team as required by the applicable Award or Agreement, usually in writing. This would generally include:
- The dates the shutdown period will commence and end;
- The reason why the business will be shutting down for this period;
- The requirement for employees to take paid annual leave during the shutdown period, and confirmation on what will happen if they haven’t accrued enough annual leave to cover them for the shutdown period.
These points should be provided to employees in writing, in accordance with the notice requirements mentioned above.
When communicating with your team about the shut down, it is also best practice to confirm whether anyone wishes to request additional leave (eg. Finish earlier than the shut down commencement date or return to work later). Asking your team ahead of time will help with planning, payroll and meeting customer needs during this busy time.
PROCESSING PAYROLL DURING A SHUT DOWN
All employers should plan ahead if your regular payroll processing day/s fall during any shut down period. If this is the case, particularly if it falls on a public holiday, consider whether you need to make alternative arrangements. This might mean processing payroll the day prior or having someone available for one day during the shit down to process payroll on the usual day.
Be sure to communicate any changes with your team ahead of time and ensure all leave requests are appropriately actioned before the shut down period commences.
WE ARE OPEN OVER XMAS
If your business will be open over the Christmas period (even if only for some employees), there are some additional considerations to plan for.
COMMUNICATING BLACKOUT PERIODS (no leave permitted)
If Christmas and New Year period is your busiest time of year, and you wish for your employees to not take leave during that time, now is the time to start consulting with them if you have not already done so.
You will need to ensure you inform your team on the following:
- The dates the blackout period will commence and end;
- The reason as to why the business requires employees to be available during that time.
Similar to communicating a shutdown period, it is best practice that the above points are provided to your employees in writing to confirm the blackout period. Ideally, any blackout periods should also be communicated to employees in a Leave Policy – contact the Edwards HR team if you need a hand preparing one.
The following dates/times are public holidays in Queensland and must be paid accordingly.
Generally, this means permanent employees are paid for the day (if it is a day they usually work), or penalty rates will apply if they work on the public holiday.
- 24 December 2023 (Sun) – part-day public holiday on Christmas Eve from 6pm to midnight (does not apply to all states)
- 25 December 2023 (Mon) – Christmas Day
- 26 December 2023 (Tues) – Boxing Day
- 1 January 2023 (Mon) – New Year’s Day
For public holiday dates in other states and territories, check this page by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
If employees are expected to work on a public holiday, please be aware that the requirements have recently changed. Employers can no longer assume an employee will be able to work a public holiday, they must now request that the employee work and be aware that the employee may refuse. Read this update for further information.
Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for employers and for HR/payroll teams, which is why Edwards HR is releasing a suite of updates early so you can plan ahead.
If we can provide any advice or support during this period, please contact our team on 07 3568 0866.
For more guidance about this update, or to find out how Edwards HR can support your business, contact our team today on 07 3568 0866.
Feel free to share this update with others in your network.