Managing Leave Over The Festive Season

annual leave over Christmas period

By Nikita Barsby, Special Counsel and Miette Xamon, Law Clerk

Effectively managing annual leave and other entitlements over the festive season

The festive season is a busy time for workplaces. Employers and employees can experience increased pressure at work and irregular hours. Employers may close down for the Christmas period, and employees may take leave to celebrate, travel or relax – so it’s important for employers to manage leave effectively during this time.

Forced annual leave over Christmas closure

Most modern awards and enterprise agreements enable employers to direct employees to take annual leave during a period of business shut-down or closure, provided they give a minimum notice period. If no modern award or enterprise agreement applies, employers should consult applicable employment contracts, policies or procedures to assess whether a direction can be issued and, if not, consider updating these documents where required.

Public holidays and overtime

The public holidays in Western Australia for the upcoming festive season are:

  • Christmas day: Wednesday 25 December 2019
  • Boxing day: Thursday 26 December 2019
  • New Year’s Day: Wednesday 1 January 2020.

Employees are not taken to be on paid annual leave on public holidays (s89(1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)) – an important consideration when processing leave requests and payroll during the festive season.

Some awards and enterprise agreements outline specific entitlements for employees on public holidays e.g. an entitlement to a day off in lieu for employees required to work on a public holiday, or for a day to be added to their annual leave balance. It is important to consult applicable awards or enterprise agreements as necessary.

Most modern awards and enterprise agreements provide for penalty rates for hours worked on public holidays and hours worked in excess of an employee’s ordinary hours (overtime). As penalty rates can differ depending on the applicable modern award or enterprise agreement, it is essential to review these documents to ensure employees are paid correctly.

Effectively managing annual leave over the Christmas period

Balancing staffing levels can be difficult over the festive season and planning is essential.  Well drafted policies and procedures will outline leave application processes which afford employers plenty of notice of employee leave requests, enabling them to plan and adapt rosters, workloads and staff levels.

Annual leave may be taken at times agreed between an employer and employee (s88(1) Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)), but an employer must not unreasonably refuse an employee’s leave request (s88(2)).

MDC Legal is a specialist employment law firm with experience providing advice on annual leave and other entitlements. We provide expert solutions through high quality, cost effective legal services. Find out more about the MDC Legal team or Contact us to discuss your matter.