Christmas Shutdown Image

Forced annual shutdowns…are they legit?

Christmas Shutdown image

It’s that time of year again, everyone enjoys some Christmas cheer!  We eat and drink far too much while counting down for the jolly man dressed in red to deliver lots of goodies on Christmas eve.  We make resolutions to eat better, exercise more and give up bad habits over the new year, some of these we keep and some well…………….. Let’s just say we will try again next year!

For some employees having a compulsory shut down over Christmas is a welcomed break.  However, for others it can be a stressful period especially when you do not have any annual leave accruals to cover the absence.

Some employees have the following concerns:

  • Can employers enforce these shutdowns?
  • What if I don’t want to take annual leave at this time?
  • What if I don’t have enough leave to cover the absence?

Let’s have a look at both the employers and employees obligations.

A shut down is when a business temporarily closes during slow periods of the year, such as Christmas and New Year.

Many of the awards permit employers to direct employees to take annual leave over the company’s shutdown period.  If you are unsure if this affects you make sure you check your award or employee agreement.  If you are uncertain what award you are covered by you can look this up on the Fair Work Ombudsman website at www.fairwork.gov.au

The Fair Work Ombudsman states that any requests by employers for workers to take forced leave should be “reasonable”.

So what happens if I don’t have enough annual leave to cover the shutdown period?

If you don’t have sufficient annual leave accruals your employer may ask you take unpaid leave.  This will be dependent on your award or employee agreement.  Christmas may not be an ideal period to take time off without an income coming in.  To avoid such circumstances ensure you manage your leave accruals accordingly knowing you will be taking a period of enforced leave annually.

Alternatively, the employer may allow employees to take paid leave in advance.  The employee would then need to accrue enough leave to cover the period taken in advance before taking any further paid leave.  I would recommend that a clause be written into employee contracts stating: any leave accruals in arears will be deducted from the final payment at termination.

Well this will be my last blog for 2015 as I will be on a compulsory shutdown myself.  Merry Christmas to all of our readers and I will see you back here in 2016!

If you need help with enforcing a shutdown period or other HR related matter please contact HR Gurus, we are here to help!

Written by our resident HR Guru, Natalie Bol

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