Christmas close down, forced leave

Holiday season is approaching.

Question – What are you doing on the 20 November 22?

 Answer – I’ll give notice to my team to take time off for the holiday season.

Correct 😊

Here’s what you need to know about Christmas Close Down

Here’s what you need to know.

Did you know you can force employees to take leave if your business is in close down mode for a period of time such as the Christmas and New Year period?

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 more significant period of notice.  

If this is a regular event, it’s well worth discussing this with your prospective employees and putting this into your employment contracts.  Be mindful that some people may not have sufficient leave accruals, and this forced leave without knowledge can put them in a tricky spot financially.

 A heads up at recruitment, in the contracts and reminders leading up to close down helps a lot.


Can an employee be forced to take leave?

There are some cases where an employer can direct employees to take leave. And Christmas time is a pretty common time for this to occur. If your employees have an excessive leave balance, then an employer may direct them to take some time off.

What if my office is closing down for Christmas?

Generally speaking, an employer can also direct an employee to take annual leave when the organisation is shut down for a seasonal period (such as between Christmas and New Year).

Modern awards and enterprise agreements may have terms covering matters relating to the taking of annual leave.

This may include some instruction about the Christmas period. If you don’t have enough leave, your award or agreement may also allow your employer to direct you to take annual leave in advance or unpaid leave. Public holidays over the Christmas period won’t count towards your annual leave, and should be paid for the public holiday.

Can my employer refuse my leave request?

Many people want to take leave over Christmas. However, an employer may refuse a request to take annual leave based upon ‘genuine, sound business reasons’.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any firm definition of what this means. Your employer is likely to consider things like how busy they are, whether you have provided reasonable notice, the length of your leave request and whether you leave would cause unmanageable detriment to the business. Being prepared and getting in early can help.

What about a help list?

Here are some tips to prepare for reduced staffing over the festive season

Many workplaces will shut down around Christmas and New Year’s however some require continuous staffing. To prepare we have created a handy checklist:

✅Finalise staff rosters including any extra arrangements needed for contract workers.

✅ Clarify accountabilities including who will have building access.

✅ Provide updated emergency contact information.

✅ Plan ahead for any financial transactions or admin procedures that may be needed during the shutdown period.

✅Employers are required to pay employees their usual wages during Christmas/New Year’s shutdown unless their award or agreement says otherwise.

✅ Review your obligations regarding pay rates and entitlements over public holidays. Your award or enterprise agreement will outline what employees should be paid when working on a public holiday.

A reminder that when New Year’s Day or Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday the next following Monday is also a public holiday. When Boxing Day falls on a Saturday the next following Monday is also a public holiday, and when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday or Monday the next following Tuesday is also a public holiday.

What are the public holidays?

The various public holidays over the Christmas-New Year period are:

  • Christmas Eve (6pm-midnight Queensland only; 7pm-midnight South Australia & Northern Territory only) – Saturday 24 December 2022
  • Christmas Day – Sunday 25 December 2022 (all states and territories)
  • Boxing Day – Monday 26 December 2022
  • Boxing Day Holiday – Tuesday 27 December 2022
  • New Year’s Eve (7pm-midnight South Australia & Northern Territory only) – Saturday 31 December 2022
  • New Year’s Day – Sunday 1 January 2023 (all states and territories)
  • New Year’s Day Holiday – Monday 2 January 2023 (all states and territories)
  • Australia Day – Thursday 26 January 2023 (all states and territories)
What about other periods of paid leave?

Under the Fair Work Act (s89(2)), if the period of a close down for annual leave includes a period of any other paid leave, such as a public holiday, personal/carer’s leave, compassionate leave or community service leave, an employee is not taken to be on paid annual leave for the period of the other leave. This provision applies to paid leave entitlements under the National Employment Standards.

Christmas Party Behaviour