It’s coming up to that time again, where we wrap up the year, celebrate the successes of the past 12 months and enjoy in 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 including public holidays, Christmas-New Year close down and Christmas functions.

Public Holidays

Full-time employees are entitled to payment for public holidays referred to in the Fair Work Act, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. An employee is entitled to be paid for their ordinary hours at their ordinary rate of pay for their absence on a public holiday. 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.

Christmas-New Year Close Downs

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, 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 for Annual Leave but 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.

If your employees are covered by the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award you are required to provide your employees with 2 months’ notice in writing that the business will observe a Christmas-New Year close down.

Christmas Functions

Another feature of this time of year is the annual Christmas parties. Despite such events occurring out of office hours, it is important to remember that such events, when sanctioned by managements, may still pose risks to employers in the instance of the untoward incident or an accident occurring. To minimise the risk employers should:

  1. clarify with employees that any policies and procedures /codes of conduct continue to apply and that breaches may constitute misconduct;
  1. assess the venue for ay safety risks, and ensuring a first aid kit is on hand;
  1. clarify that any additional celebrations or ‘after parties’ are not sanctioned by management and advise all employees of ‘official’ function hours; and
  2. 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.

More information or advice

The team at CTI Lawyers can assist with advice on your employer obligations during this period. Contact us today on 1300 361 099 for further information and assistance.

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For more information, contact CTI Lawyers on 1300 361 099 or email [email protected].