Over the Christmas period many businesses shut down some or all of their business units.  How best to record this leave is a question that will be addressed by this week’s HR Highlight.  In addition to exploring Shutdowns this week we will also look at how to handle leave questions over the Christmas break.

Shutdown

While it does differ based on the requirements of the business, in most instances some or all business units may not need to be operational over the Christmas to New Year’s break.  In these cases the business has the option of declaring an annual shutdown.

There is provision for annual shutdowns within the Fair Work Act for three reasons;

  1. Due to the workplace or work being unable to be completed for circumstances out of the employers control ie: natural disasters;
  2. Due to the plant and equipment required being unable to be operated due to circumstances out of the employers control ie: major plant malfunction; and
  3. Due to planned outage, based on business and seasonal requirements ie: Christmas.

Treatment of leave and wages differ depending on the type of shutdown.

For planned shutdowns, such as over Christmas, provided the employer has given the employees adequate notice, all shutdown time is to be treated as annual leave.  Where an employee has not accrued enough annual leave to accommodate the shutdown leave without pay, or advancing of annual leave are options.

Other Leave

ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals are often asked about unplanned leave.  Specifically, what are employers allowed to ask for when an employee is off work on unplanned leave.  The answer depends on the reason and type of leave, but most often comes back to the policies in place at the business.

For example if the business has a leave policy that states all unplanned leave that is;

  • adjacent to a public holiday, weekend or planned leave, or
  • is longer than two days,

will require a doctors certificate or statutory declaration, then the business has the capacity to ask for these things.

In a recent case, the business had cause to mistrust the statutory declaration provided by an employee regarding their leave.  After investigation, the business determined that the employee was not ill as advised, but rather was in another State on a family holiday.  The employee had expended their annual leave and made the choice to “call in sick”.  The business terminated the employee for “breaching the trust in the employment relationship”.  The case ended up with the Commission as an unfair dismissal, and the result was that the employer was found to have been correct in terminating the employee.

Lessons

ACAPMA Members are advised that clear and well-communicated policies around leave, including annual shutdowns, reduce confusion and allow the business to effectively manage employee compliance and performance.

Here to Help

Through the festive season, ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals are available to assist members on 1300 160 270 or you can email elishar@acapma.com.au.  ACAPMA members can access resources and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals it’s free for members. ACAPMA membership is affordable at only $770 per year for a single site, which represents great value with sites gaining HR advice support and representation as well as a raft of other benefits and discounts. Learn more about ACAPMA membership here.

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