Annual leave and pay over the holidays

As the holiday season approaches, so does the shutdown period for many businesses. This is the time of year when it is easier to take off work due to many businesses slowing down, however, there are questions that surround this period, namely if you will get paid or not.

When calculating leave over the Christmas and New Year period, for permanent staff that would typically work on the public holidays, those days must count as a public holiday rather than a day of annual leave. Regular employee rights apply to Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day public holidays. If you work in an industry that may require staff to work these days, normal requirements and relevant penalty rates are in effect. Employees can choose not to work on a public holiday on reasonable grounds such as how much notice the employee received or whether employers expected them to work on a public holiday. Employers do not have an automatic right to terminate an employee if they refuse to work on a public holiday.

Employees may be instructed to take their annual leave for the remaining days during the shutdown period. Employers can require this if the relevant award allows it or, if the industry’s award does not have a stance on compulsory annual leave over the holiday period, employers can still require employees to take annual leave if the business typically shuts down over Christmas. You cannot compel your employees to take their leave each year. However, an employee cannot unreasonably refuse your request to take annual leave, if they have accumulated it over a long period.

Employees that have not accrued enough leave to cover the holiday period can arrange with their employers to take leave in advance or unpaid. Workers who do not agree to this, however, cannot be forced by an employer to take unpaid leave unless the industry award allows them to. If not, employers will have to pay workers at a normal rate for the period of the shutdown.

To avoid issues in the midst of the holidays, review employment contracts and understand your holiday rights and obligations, as an employer or employee. Communicate with relevant parties before any shutdown period and organise any business needs. By getting this done early, you can fully enjoy the holidays when they arrive.

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