Businesses urged to act immediately before planned season shutdown

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

Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Roseanne Huskie, said, “The most important step is to check the conditions relating to your right to send employees on an annual close down. 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 close down. 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, and Meat Industry Award 2010 requires an employer to give at least three months’ notice of a close down.

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,” Ms Huskie 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 close down 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.

Ms Huskie added, “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 Huskie 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.”

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