Jacqui Antoniou - HR Professional
Well this year certainly has been a challenging year and most of us are counting down the days till we get to say ho, ho, ho and adios 2020, and hello to a bright new 2021!
So, it is a fitting time to take a look at the Christmas and New Year’s shutdown. A time when some businesses temporarily shut down or scale back and run on skeleton staff over the Christmas and New year period. This time allows employers and employees some time away from work to relax, rejuvenate and spend time with family while many clients, suppliers and business partners do the same.
Most employees are in favour of having an extended break at the end of the year, but some employers prefer to work through and only close on the applicable public holidays. There is no right or wrong decision here, just what’s right for your business!
If you do decide to shut down it is a great time for you and your employees to recharge. After a long year, productivity and morale can start to dip so it can prove a great time for everyone to recharge the batteries. It’s really important that you make sure you give your employees as much notice as possible re any shutdown period, so they can make plans with family and friends. In 2020, with no overseas travel, we expect people will want to book available local options as early as possible – so do the right thing and make your decisions as soon as you can. There are legal requirements regarding notification and we’’ go through them below….
Given the year we are experiencing choosing to not shut down and only just taking the public holidays off in an effort to try and recoup some of what you may have lost might be the right option for your business this year. This could mean getting ahead of the competition as the momentum with sales, enquires and or production could have an impact to your bottom line and put you in a better place straight out the gates for the new year or may provide you with the time to reduce any backlog you have from the required closures impacting many businesses If this is you, and your employees usually expect a long break, let them know well in advance that it will be different this year.
All communication regarding whether you have decided to shut down or remain open will need to be provided to your employees as early as possible, but in general, a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice must be given. Notification can be as easy as a companywide email letting them know of your decision. If you are shutting down let them know exact dates that annual leave must be taken and whether skeleton staff are required or if some employees are allowed back early.
If you are deciding on a shutdown for the first time, here are a few things to consider:
Do you have a shutdown clause in your employment contracts?
This clause should say that the business may impose a business shutdown during which time employees are required to cease work and are required to take all or some of their annual leave.
If you do not have a clause, you will need to refer to the award or EBA that your employees are governed by before making any decisions to shut down as there are rules and guidelines that you will need to follow.
Can I direct my employees to take their annual leave when we shut down?
Well that all depends on their award or EBA, if it allows you to direct your employees to take leave then you can, just make sure you follow the rules and give the correct notice prior to the shutdown.
If your award or EBA doesn’t have a rule about shutdowns, you can ask your employee to take unpaid leave or annual leave in advance. However, if the employee does not agree to take unpaid leave or annual leave in advance, they need to be paid their relevant pay for the time.
What if an employee does not have enough annual leave to cover the shutdown period?
Again, this depends on the award or EBA, in some awards or agreements if an employee does not have enough annual leave to cover the shutdown, they will need to take all or some of the shutdown as unpaid leave.
What about public holidays?
If the shutdown period includes Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day, as these days are gazetted public holidays these are not counted as annual leave days. All employees should be paid their relevant pay for these days.
If you need further information or any assistance on deciding whether a Christmas and New Year shut down is right for your business, contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team - we are always here to help!
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