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Christmas is coming – what are the leave rules? 2023 update

Oct 30, 2023

  • 2min

Christmas is coming – what are the leave rules? 2023 update

Industry News
Sarah and Beck sit back to back on against a white wall. They are laughing and looking at each other. Sarah has cartoon reindeer antlers on her head. Beck has a cartoon santa hat, both of which have been edited on.
With the Christmas holiday period quickly approaching, now is the time to start planning your holiday operating hours and ensuring you’ve got appropriate coverage if you have employees requesting leave.

The holiday season is an important time for many people to spend time with their family and friends to relax and recharge for the year ahead. It’s also a busy time for many businesses, especially those in retail and hospitality, so balancing your business’s needs with your team’s needs can be challenging but not impossible.

What are the new rules in 2023 – let’s break it down

Kim & Dave in enjoying the Christmas (Photoshop) Spirit.

Shutdown period over Christmas and New Year

If you’re planning on closing during the Christmas and New Year period and your employees are covered under an award, you’ll need to check the relevant rules for that award to ensure compliance.

In May of this year, rules around shutdown periods for 77 awards (including building and construction, hospitality, hair and beauty, and real estate) changed, and you can only direct an employee to take leave during shutdown periods if their award or registered agreement allows it.

One key change is that employers must give 28 days’ notice of the shutdown period unless an agreement for a shorter notice period has been reached with the majority of affected employees.

A few other things to keep in mind

  • Shutdown period notice must be in writing.
  • The direction for taking leave must be reasonable.
  • You can’t direct employees to take unpaid leave during a shutdown – employees can use time in lieu and employees without enough paid leave available can be granted paid leave in advance.
  • Employees will be paid for any public holidays during the shutdown period that would otherwise be a normal working day.

No shutdown period over Christmas and New Year

If your business won’t be closing over the holiday period, your employees may request to take annual leave during this time. Employees will need to request leave in advance in accordance with their award, registered agreement, company policy or employment contract.

It’s important to remember that an employer can only refuse an employee’s request for leave if the refusal is reasonable. 

Cancelling a leave request

Similar to refusing an employee’s leave request, an employer’s cancellation of approved leave must be reasonable. You’ll also need to consider whether the employee has incurred any expenses concerning the leave request and how much notice you’re giving the employee. 

Likewise, if the employee wishes to cancel an approved leave request, the employer shouldn’t unreasonably refuse the request.

Have a stress-free holiday season

Workforce planning around the holidays can be tricky. You may have multiple employees who want to take the same period off, making it challenging to create rosters and ensure you’ve got appropriate coverage. 

Reducing stress during this time of the year comes down to being reasonable, good communication and robust employment policies. Communicate with your employees early about the business’ needs and expectations during the busy Christmas and New Year period. If you don’t shut down during this time, ensure your company policies and employment contracts set out how leave requests are managed during high-demand periods.

If you need any help with preparing your business for the holiday season or would like to find out more about our successful recruitment campaigns, call our HR experts on 1800 868 254 or talk to an expert.

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