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Closing Down Over Christmas?: What You Need To Do

Published November 18, 2020 (last updated February 9, 2023) - Face2Face Field Service Manager
employer closes shop over christmas

While many businesses will experience their busiest period of the year in the lead-up to, or during, Christmas, many other businesses will take the opportunity to close down for a few days. 

If you’re looking to closedown your business, here are the most important things you need to do. 

Check the Provisions in the Applicable Modern Awards 

If you are closing down your workplace, you are in effect directing your staff to take annual leave during the shutdown. 

The most important step is to check the conditions relating to your right to send employees on an annual shutdown. This will depend on the Modern Awards or enterprise agreements that apply for your business which will outline the minimum required notice period to notify your employees. 

Most Awards will contain terms which allow employers to send employees on an annual shutdown. This is usually subject to an employer giving affected employees at least four weeks’ notice, although an Award or agreement may require a greater period of notice.  

For example, the Building and Construction General On-site Award, requires an employer to give at least two months’ notice of a shutdown. 

In another example, under the Security Services Industry Award, an employer must provide at least one months’ notice in writing before the leave needs to be taken. 

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You May Not Be Able To Direct Staff to Take Annual Leave 

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, but you will have to pay them their ordinary hourly rate for the time they would have worked while the business is closed. 

Understand Annual Leave 

What if your employees have no annual leave left? What if they have some annual leave left, but not enough to cover the entire shutdown? What if they’re not entitled to paid annual leave?  

The answers to these questions -usually lies in the award or agreement and is something that you should be across before you communicate the shutdown to your staff. Not only will your staff probably ask you these questions, but if your staff are entitled to paid annual leave, it’d be wise to know exactly how much you need to pay! 

By the way, the initial answers to these questions (depending on the award or agreement) are: 

  • You may still be able to direct them to take unpaid annual leave 
  • You may still be able to direct them to take the time off, and pay them for the entitlements that they have, and direct them to take unpaid time off for the remainder 
  • You may still be able to direct them to take paid annual leave, or, if they are casuals, give them notice that they will not receive any shifts for the length of your shutdown 

You may also allow your staff to go into paid negative leave which they can then accrue when they get back to work – but this is up to you as an employer. 

Figure Out If You Need Any Staff Over That Period 

You may actually need some staff to make sure the lights are still on at your business, so to speak. 

For example, at Employsure, we always ensure that there are always advisors on call during the Christmas and New Year period so that no client query gets left unanswered.  

If you need a skeleton staff to still attend work, you can request that they do so.  

Keep in mind that you have extra obligations towards employees working over this period as they may be entitled to extra pay or an extra day off, particularly if they work on  public holidays. 

Communicate To Staff Well In Advance 

Even if the applicable Award obliges you to give your staff notice of a Christmas shutdown , Employsure recommends that you still notify your staff well in advance. 

Let staff know when you’re closing the workplace and when you’re reopening, and which staff or roles you require to work during the period you will be otherwise closed down.  

For the employees who you require to stay back, Employsure recommends that you clearly communicate to the affected staff or their managers a separate capacity plan stating their working requirements  

Download Our Checklist

Before you close down your workplace, you don’t want to walk away on the last day and have that tingling feeling you’ve forgotten to turn off the stove or lock the front door. We’ve created a checklist with all the tasks you should complete before you leave on your break. 

Employsure Can Help You 

If you have any questions about Christmas closedowns, any topic raised in this article, or have another question about workplace relations or WHS, call Employsure on 1300 651 415 and we can assist you with free, initial advice. 

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 25,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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