Christmas and New Year bring end-of-year obligations

Printing industry businesses having annual close-down periods over the Christmas and New Year need to ensure they are meeting their legal requirements for employees by giving sufficient notice about the planned holiday closure, industrial relations expert Charles Watson says.

The Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010 (GAPPA) includes clear terms which permit employers to have a partial or full close-down and require staff to take annual leave during the period of closure. The employer is required to give four weeks’ notice is given to the employees.

“We recommend that such notice is confirmed in writing,” Watson, general manager, Workforce Guardian, says.

The GAPPA also stipulates that an employee who has not accrued enough annual leave is permitted paid annual leave for the closure period for which they have accrued sufficient leave and then given unpaid leave for the remainder of the closure.

Although most Awards contain close-down related terms, several do not.

Watson notes, “If your business is covered by more than one Award we recommend you review the close-down provisions of each applicable Award and how they might affect your plans. In the absence of an express Award provision, the business may not be entitled to direct an employee to take annual leave and may need to otherwise reach an agreement with those employees.”

Some Awards state that if an employee has insufficient annual leave, they are entitled to be paid leave in advance. Other Awards state the annual close-down period can be unpaid if the employee has accrued insufficient annual leave.

Award free employees

An employer is entitled to direct Award free employees to take annual leave so long as the direction is considered “reasonable”. Given the rest of the business is closed during that period it could be seen as reasonable to direct Award free employees to take annual leave during a close-down period.

Start planning and communicating now

For Watson, the solution is simple, “If your business is open throughout the Christmas/New Year period, start planning your staffing needs and how to fairly juggle annual leave applications.

“Right now is the best time to distribute a memo advising your employees of any close-down period. The memo should contain start and finish dates of the close-down period, and state that the period will be considered as annual leave and paid accordingly (i.e. deducted from accrued annual leave). Ensure each employee receives a copy of any such memo,” Watson said.

“You may also wish to communicate to employees that the annual leave days will be separate from the public holidays during that period and will not remove or replace their entitlement to public holidays. This is often a point of misunderstanding with employees.”

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