It’s coming up that time again where we wrap up the year, celebrate the successes of the past 12 months and enjoy the Christmas festivities. With the holiday season fast approaching it is also important for businesses to remember that this time of year can come with its own specific issues that need to be managed. Some of these are;

 

Dealing with Public Holidays

Full-time employees are entitled to payment for public holidays referred to in the Fair Work Act. It is important to note that an employee cannot be taken to be on annual leave and on a public holiday at the same time. An employee is entitled to be paid for their ordinary hours at their ordinary rate of pay for their absence on a public holiday. 

 

Christmas Shutdowns 

A common question asked when approaching this time of year is whether or not we can direct an employee onto Annual Leave during a shutdown period. In short, the answer is that we can do that if the instrument that covers our business (i.e an enterprise agreement, or an award) allows for it. Most instruments, including the Electrical Electronic and Communications Contracting Award, will contain provisions allowing the direction onto Annual Leave. Section 28.5 of the Electrical Electronic and Communications Contracting Award states that: 

(a) An employer may,by two months’notice in writing,declare that the establishment,project or business will observe a complete Christmas–New Year close-down. 

However, the award may contain conditions such as the provision of a certain amount of notice which must be complied with. Be sure to check with your agreement or the award to ensure you are compliant with your obligations in relation to this issue.

 

Christmas Functions

Another feature of this time of year is annual Christmas parties. However, despite such events occurring out of office hours and occurring in the context of alcohol service, it is important to remember that such events, when sanctioned by management, may still pose risks to employers in the instance of an untoward incident or an accident occurring. To minimise the risk employers should;

  • clarify with employees that Company policies and procedures /codes of conduct continue to apply and that breaches may constitute misconduct
  • assess the venue for any safety risks, and ensure that a first aid kit is on hand
  • clarify that any additional celebrations or ‘afterparties’ are not sanctioned by management and advise all employees of ‘official’ function hours
  • serve food when providing alcohol and ensure that there are controls on the service of alcohol, either by having a bar tab/limit on the type of alcohol consumed and preventing self-service of alcohol.

 

Keeping mind of these principles may assist your business in dealing with these issues over the holidays. For more information, please contact CTI Lawyers’ Senior Associate, Lauren Howe, on 1300 361 099 or email lauren.howe@neca.asn.au.