Dear Aunty B,
I work for a large accounting firm and we are about a week-and-a-half from our annual Christmas shut down.
It was originally supposed to run from December 21 to January 7, but last week we were told that the office would be closed for an extra week until January 14.
I don’t mind the extra break, but the troops are up in arms. Some don’t have enough leave days and will be forced to go into leave debt. Others are upset because they have arranged overseas and interstate trips to come back for January 7 and it’s too late to make changes.
Are they allowed to do this to us on such short notice?
More holidays? You poor dears. Yes, there is a lot of this going around at the moment as firms try to reduce a bit of cost in the early part of the year. Unfortunately, that’s the way of the world.
To clarify the legalities around this, I called on my old lawyer friend Uncle P, who says it is generally permissible for employers to require employees to take annual leave during a Christmas shut down, and the Fair Work Act contains a specific provision concerning this for non-award employees. Most awards also have something allowing this.
But the key is that it’s got to be “reasonable” and Uncle P says employers need to be conscious of the conditions under awards that apply to annual closedowns. For example, the Manufacturing Award includes the following:
- Employer’s must give at least four-week notice of the close down;
- Close downs may only be for up to three separate periods per year, provided at least one period is a minimum of 14 days (including public holidays and weekends).
That award wouldn’t apply to you, but there may be some employees under awards at your firm who can check up on any conditions that need to be met.
I agree with you that your employer hasn’t given enough notice, but you need to suck it up. Your employer is doing this for a reason – to keep your company profitable and healthy in the new year.
And it’s not worth crying over extra holidays, is it?
Your Aunty B
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