Closing over Christmas and the New Year?

With Christmas just around the corner, businesses planning to close over the holiday season have likely considered the need to inform their clients, but may not have considered how important it is to correctly inform employees.

Did you know there are strict requirements for how you notify employees about business shut down periods?

Under the Fair Work Act, an employer can direct an employee to take annual leave, but only when an award or registered agreement allows it, and the requirement is reasonable. We recently wrote an article on how to stand down employees if you have to shut down during natural disasters or emergencies, and the good news is, there are other allowable instances where the business can close and instruct employees to take leave.

Christmas Shut Down Periods

For many businesses, it’s not viable to remain open over Christmas and thankfully many of the modern awards and agreements allow employers to direct their staff to take annual leave – or unpaid leave when annual leave has been exhausted – during a close down period.

There are different requirements under each award that detail the minimum notice period that you’re required to provide to your staff. Below we’ve highlighted awards that require a longer notification period for planned closures.

Is your business covered by the below awards?

  • Airline Operations-Ground Staff Award 2010
  • Meat Industry Award 2010
  • Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010
  • Joinery and Building Trades Award 2010
  • Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010
  • Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010
  • Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010

If you own or operate a business with employees covered by these awards and plan a seasonal shutdown, you should have already informed your employees of the shut down period and the relevant dates. This notification can be communicated in various ways, and now is a good time to confirm arrangements with your team, and clarify any leave entitlements or requirements to take unpaid leave if employees have insufficient leave accrued.

Even if your business operates under other awards, it’s important to review the requirements around shut downs and comply with the correct notice periods set out in the award or agreement. The awards do have varying requirements around the allowable reasons for shut down, how much notice is to be given, and how the notice must be given, i.e. whether notice can be provided verbally or whether it must be done formally in writing.

We always recommend giving notice in writing via email or hard copy as best practice. Having reference to your annual business shut down periods in your policies and employment contracts is beneficial. Some accounting packages even allow for a message to be added onto payslips and this can be another effective way to communicate reminders around shut down periods with your employees.

If you have any questions about shut down notice periods and how to best manage your obligations to employees at this time, please get in touch with us today.