If your workplace closes over the Christmas and New Year period, your award or agreement is likely to have requirements for notifying employees of the shutdown and how they are to be paid during this time (if at all).
Some awards and agreements allow an employer to direct employees to take annual leave during this time. For instance, the Clerks -Private Sector Award sets the following requirements:
Employees can be directed to take annual leave during a shutdown. They have to be given at least 4 weeks’ notice before the leave needs to be taken.
If an employee doesn’t have enough leave to cover the shutdown, they can agree with the employer to take:
- annual leave in advance or
- unpaid leave.
If an employee doesn’t agree to either, they have to be paid their ordinary pay rate for the shutdown. They can’t be forced to take unpaid leave.
In comparison, under the Building and Construction General On-site Award, employers are required to give at least two months’ notice of a designated Christmas shut down.
In yet another comparison, for the Security industry award, during a shutdown, employees who do not have enough annual leave accrued must take leave without pay. It’s a very different situation to the Clerical summary we’ve mentioned above.
Where an award or agreement makes no reference to annual shutdowns, the employer can’t direct an employee to take leave during that time. It is ok for both parties to agree to take paid or unpaid leave during that time. There are also some scenarios where an employee with ‘excessive’ leave accruals, generally, over 8 weeks of leave accrued, can be requested to take paid leave.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple rule to follow across all industries and awards, so you will need to check your award for your specific requirements or talk to our team for help.
When managing annual leave requests and shutdowns during this time, don’t forget that for your permanent employees, if a public holiday falls on the employee’s annual leave day, the day is to be paid as a public holiday and not taken from their annual leave accruals.
If you are planning a Christmas and New Year shutdown, we do recommend getting your notifications out to staff early, so you can all relax and enjoy the time off!