Holiday Season Rules & Entitlements: A Guide for a Smooth Celebration

Rules and Entitlements During The End of Year Holiday Season

The rules and entitlements during the end-of-year holiday season such as public holidays, shutdowns, and leave provisions can be confusing. Has your business got a plan for staff annual leave and public holidays? We can help you plan for cash flow while meeting your employer obligations.

As we head into the summer holiday period, is your business up to speed with your rights and obligations? It can be confusing to employers and employees alike – public holidays worked or taken as annual leave, business shutdowns, annual leave provisions… there are many rules employers need to understand.

Employees are entitled to annual leave and public holidays under the National Employment Standards minimum entitlements.

Employers can ask employees to work on public holidays within reason. For example, if the business is open every day of the year, and the employment agreement states that public holidays may be required, the employer can reasonably ask an employee to work a public holiday.

An employee can refuse to work on a public holiday if the request is unreasonable or there are reasonable personal grounds for refusing.

Rules and Entitlements During The End-of-Year Holiday Season 2022-2023

The following link has the Christmas and New Year Public Holidays that apply to employers in all states for the Christmas period and beyond - 2023 Public Holidays

Public holidays are paid at ordinary rates for employees who take the day off. Employees who work on a public holiday must either be paid penalty rates according to the relevant award or be given an extra day off in lieu of the public holiday. Some awards have specific provisions or additional benefits for public holidays, so it's important to check.

If an employee has booked annual leave for the Christmas and New Year periods, the public holidays are not counted as annual leave.

Some other key points to remember:

- Public holidays are counted as service, so annual and personal leave continues to accrue as usual.
- Overtime worked on a public holiday may be paid at a different rate than regular overtime - check the relevant award or agreement.
- Check the award or agreement for shutdown provisions. Most awards have guidance for directing employees to take a leave during annual shutdowns.
- If employees don't have enough annual leave, employers can agree to pay them in advance for leave not yet accrued, or the employee can take unpaid leave.

The FWO has further advice on rules and entitlements during the end-of-year holiday season.

You might also need to think about cash flow planning for the holiday period, particularly if the business shuts down but still has obligations for payroll and other expenses.

We can advise you about your employer responsibilities and help plan holiday period payments so you can make the most of your summer holiday! Contact us today!

What are the holiday rules in Australia?

In Australia, the public holidays vary depending on the state or territory. However, there are some common national public holidays observed across the country:

1. New Year's Day: January 1st
2. Australia Day: January 26th
3. Good Friday: Friday before Easter Sunday
4. Easter Monday: Monday after Easter Sunday
5. Anzac Day: April 25th
6. Christmas Day: December 25th
7. Boxing Day: December 26th

Additionally, each state or territory may have its own unique public holidays, such as Labor Day or Queen's Birthday. It is recommended to check the specific public holiday dates for your state or territory to get accurate information.

What is available to employees in Australia in terms of vacation time and statutory holidays?

In Australia, employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days of annual leave per year, which is equivalent to four weeks of paid vacation time. Additionally, employees are entitled to 10 public holidays per year, which may vary depending on the state or territory they are employed in.

What is the annual leave policy in Australia?

In Australia, the annual leave policy is governed by the Fair Work Act 2009. According to the law, full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks of paid annual leave per year. Part-time employees receive a pro-rata amount based on the number of hours they work compared to full-time employees. This entitlement accrues progressively throughout the year and can be taken by the employee with the agreement of their employer. It is important to note that specific conditions and additional entitlements may vary depending on the employment agreement or award that applies to the employee.

Can an employee be forced to take a leave at Christmas?

Yes, an employee can be forced to take leave at Christmas if it is specified in his/her employment contract or if the employer has a policy in place regarding mandatory leave during the holiday season. However, it is important to consult your specific employment contract or company policies to understand the exact rules and regulations regarding leave during Christmas.

Can an employer direct an employee to take annual leave during a shutdown?

An employer has the authority to direct their employees to take annual leave during a business shutdown, as long as their relevant award or registered agreement permits such action.

Most awards outline specific regulations governing when and how employers can mandate annual leave for their employees. Such rules may stipulate a minimum notice period that employers must provide to employees before directing them to take annual leave. Additionally, certain awards may restrict the permissible time frames for a business shutdown.

Given the variations in each award and agreement, it is imperative for employers to thoroughly review their specific documents to ensure compliance before issuing any directives regarding the use of annual leave by employees.

In cases where no award or agreement is applicable, employers are only authorized to instruct employees to take annual leave if such direction is deemed reasonable.

What about employees without enough annual leave to cover a shutdown?

Employees without enough annual leave to cover a shutdown can explore the following options:

1. Unpaid Leave: They can request unpaid leave for the duration of the shutdown period.

2. Advanced Leave: If the company allows it, employees can request to take leave in advance before it accrues.

3. Leave Donation: Some companies have a leave donation program where employees can donate their unused leave to colleagues in need.

4. Negotiate with the Employer: Employees can discuss alternative arrangements with their employer, such as working remotely, adjusting work hours, or taking on different tasks.

It's important for employees to communicate their situation with their employer to find a mutually agreeable solution.

What's in it for awards and agreements without shutdown rules?

Employers are prohibited from instructing employees to take annual leave during a shutdown if their award or agreement lacks provisions permitting such directives.
Nevertheless, employees have the option to voluntarily agree with their employer to take annual leave, even if they haven't accrued it yet, or to take unpaid leave during the shutdown.
In the absence of explicit provisions in an award or agreement, employers are not authorized to mandate employees to take annual leave before accruing it or to take unpaid leave.

What about working during a shutdown?

If an employee remains on duty during a business shutdown, they are entitled to receive their regular compensation.

Additionally, on any public holidays that occur during the shutdown, employees should either be granted a day off with full pay or be compensated at the public holiday rates stipulated in their award or agreement.

How about working overtime or on a public holiday?

Employers have the discretion to request employees to work overtime or on public holidays, provided the request is reasonable. However, employees have the right to refuse such requests if they have valid grounds for doing so.

The reasonableness of the request is contingent on various factors, including:
- the business's operational requirements
- the employee's role and responsibilities
- the employee's personal commitments, such as family or caregiving responsibilities
- the amount of notice provided to the employee regarding the additional work
- the terms outlined in the employee's contract

When asking an employee to work on a public holiday, employers must take into account all relevant circumstances.

If an employee does work overtime or on a public holiday, their award or registered agreement may entitle them to additional benefits such as penalty rates, a substitute day off, or extra annual leave.

What's the pay for employees who don't work on a public holiday?

On a public holiday that aligns with a full-time or part-time employee's regular workday, employers are obligated to remunerate them at their minimum pay rate for their standard hours. This obligation persists even if the employee is on paid annual leave during a shutdown.

It's important to note that the minimum pay rate excludes any additional loadings, overtime, or penalty rates that the employee typically receives for working on that specific day. Employers are prohibited from deliberately altering an employee's roster to circumvent this payment requirement.

Any resources for young workers and students?

During the holiday season, it's common to have young workers and students entering the workforce for the first time.

If you are a young worker or student, you might have questions about minimum working ages, how to get ready for your initial workday, and understanding your pay and entitlements. Explore the Young Workers and Students section for valuable information.

For employers, we recommend consulting our Employing Young Workers Best Practice Guide.

Acro Accounting & Financial Planning (AAFP) offers a one stop solution right from accounting, taxation, financial planning to other business advisory services. As Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA’s) and professional tax advisors, we pride ourselves on being experts with the latest developments relating to business and taxation. We as professional public practice firm, provide high quality taxation and business advice to our clients through a personalised service at competitive rates.

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