Christmas Shutdown

2 December 2021

Christmas is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, to take some time off work, and reenergise for the new year ahead. Making a decision on whether to close your business should be based on finding a balance between what is appropriate for your business while considering the sensitivities of your staff and clients. Some offices and businesses need to stay open as Christmas can be the busiest time of year for many. However, for companies that find phone calls and emails slowing down over the Christmas period, the decision of whether to stay open or not can be difficult.

If you’re looking to close down your business during this time, here are the most important things you need to do.

Check the Applicable Modern Awards

By closing down your workplace over the Christmas period, you are in effect directing your staff to take annual leave during the shutdown. The most important step is to check the provisions regarding your right to send employees on an annual shutdown. These provisions may be found in the awards or enterprise agreements that apply for your business.

Most awards will outline the terms in which employers are allowed to send employees on an annual shutdown. This usually entails an employer giving affected employees at least four weeks’ notice, although an award or agreement may require a greater notice period.

If the award or agreement does not mention shutdowns or directions to take leave, you can’t force employees to use their annual leave. Instead, you can negotiate with them to take paid or unpaid leave. If they do not agree, you will have to pay them their ordinary hourly rate for the time they would have worked while the business is closed.

Decide If You Need Skeleton Staff Over the Holiday Period

Although many workplaces shut down around the holiday period, some organisations require continuous staffing, such as medical and aged care facilities. In order to prepare in the lead up to this period, finalise the roster well in advance, clarify responsibilities during this time, and provide emergency contact information. Also, keep in mind that you have extra obligations towards employees working over this period as they may be entitled to extra pay or an extra day off, particularly if they work on public holidays.

Communicate with Staff in Advance

Although some awards and agreements mandate giving staff notice of a Christmas shutdown, it is recommended that you advise all staff of the shutdown well in advance. For staff that you require to work during this time, it is also recommended that you clearly communicate accountabilities to both the affected employees and their managers.

Ensure Outstanding Tasks Are Completed

  • Make sure your clients and suppliers know of the closure
  • Send out or pay any outstanding invoices
  • Inform your landlord (if applicable) about your planned closure
  • Set up an out-of-office email for the business and all staff, and change the voice message of any or all telephones
  • Reschedule or cancel any incoming or ongoing deliveries or services (e.g. regular supplier packages)

Understand Your Obligations Regarding Public Holidays

Employees who continue to work on public holidays may be entitled to a day in lieu or penalty rates.

The following is a list of public holidays that occur in NSW between the Christmas period and Australia Day.

Public HolidayDate
Christmas DaySaturday 25 December
Boxing DaySunday 26 December
Additional public holiday for Christmas DayMonday 27 December
Additional public holiday for Boxing DayTuesday 28 December
New Year’s DaySaturday 1 January
Additional public holiday for New Year’s DayMonday 3 January
Australia DayWednesday 26 January

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