Everyone needs a break or holiday at some point during the year, and for many businesses in the construction, manufacturing, corporate, and education industries that time is possible during the Christmas/New Year period. However, for those in the retail or hospitality industry that is the busiest time of year and closing up shop for an “Annual Closedown” is next to impossible.
In many Awards, there are provisions which set out the process and obligations to be met when an employer wants to temporarily close their business over the Christmas/New Year period. For example, businesses whose staff are covered by the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2020. It is vital that members understand the new rules which apply in this limited circumstance.
Previously employers could notify employees that if they did not have enough annual leave accrued for the period of the annual closedown, they would be required to take unpaid leave, this is no longer possible. If an employee does not have enough accrued leave to cover the period of the annual shutdown, they must be paid as usual for the period not covered by any accrued leave. There is no period which is permitted to be unpaid.
There is the ability for the employer to agree to permit the employee to take annual leave in advance pursuant to clause 25.10, but this is the only alternative if existing annual leave accruals do not cover the entire period.
Employers must therefore ensure that annual leave is managed carefully to ensure that when the shutdown commences, all employees have sufficient annual leave available to cover the period, otherwise they must be paid as normal with no deductions from any leave balances.
All of the other rules and obligations around annual closedowns/shutdowns remain the same although the wording has been cleaned up a bit. For example, instead of referring to four weeks’ notice, they now refer to 28 days. For all intents and purposes, the only real change is the removal of the ability to direct employees to take unpaid leave, and it is this which will have the biggest impact.
NBIA Members receive free unlimited phone and email IR & HR support as part of their membership. If you need assistance with your human resources or industrial relations please contact the NBIA head office on 1300 557 022 or via email.