Closing Your Office During The 2017/18 Holiday Period

While the run up to Christmas can be just as intense, Christmas Eve marks the beginning of the summer shutdown. Many offices traditionally close for the week between Christmas and New Year, with others running on just a skeleton staff for the first few weeks of January.

Closing your office during the 2017-18 holiday period

Closing in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day provides the perfect opportunity for you to minimise overheads during a traditionally slow week, while allowing your employees to take a break and spend that special time with their families.

Public Holidays over the 2017 Xmas period

As Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on Mondays this festive season, in all States and Territories, Proclamation Day will be Tuesday 26 December 2017, and New Year’s Day will be Monday 1 January 2018.

For those of you in South Australia, please note both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, which fall on Sundays, are part-day public holidays from 7:00pm to midnight.

If you run a business that needs to keep working through the holidays, it’s important to remember that employees don’t have to work on public holidays. They can refuse if they have reasonable grounds.

Where your employees do work, you are required to pay them in line with their applicable Award or enterprise agreement. This may include, additional entitlements, which includes public holiday pay rates, additional annual leave or the ability to substitute a public holiday for another day.

2017 Xmas and New Year’s Holiday Calendar

Monday, 25/12/2017: Christmas Day
Tuesday, 26/12/2017: Proclamation Day
Sunday, 31/12/2017: New Years Eve
Monday, 1/01/2018: New Years Day
Different rules for different Awards

If you decide to close your business over Christmas, you need to be aware of shutdown rules and requirements which vary depending on the modern award or enterprise agreement that covers your employees.

Where you are allowed to direct your employees to take annual leave during a shutdown, you must provide written notice. Typically, this is four weeks’ notice, but can be as much as two months, depending on the award. And remember, your full and part time employees are entitled to be paid for public holidays that fall within the shutdown period.

If your award or agreement doesn’t say anything about shut downs or directions to take leave, the Fair Work Ombudsman says that you can’t force employees to use their leave. You can negotiate with them to take paid or unpaid leave but if they don’t agree you can’t force them.

Where employees aren’t covered by an enterprise agreement or a modern award, you can direct them to take leave if that request is reasonable which typically means:

  • a four-week period of notice is given prior to the shutdown commencing
  • the employee has sufficient accrued leave (or is granted leave without pay)
  • the employee’s contract of employment details that the business usually shuts down over Christmas

Therefore, if you are considering shutting down your operations over the Christmas and New Year period (and into January), ensure you:

Double-check your obligations under the applicable awards

Remind Staff to Submit their Leave Requests

And don’t forget to turn off the lights before you go!

Happy Holidays!

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