The Australian Industry Group is urging employers to act now to avoid facing public holiday chaos over the Christmas period.
AIG chief executive Heather Ridout says employers are in a state of confusion, with six states adopting five different approaches to public holidays.
Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day all fall on a weekend this year, with the states proclaiming different combinations of substitute days and additional days on following Mondays or Tuesdays.
The AIG has called on Fair Work Australia to clarify the payment of penalties nationally under the modernised manufacturing award.
However, it has argued the same clause is found in many other awards and the tribunal’s decision will affect other industries that operate over the holiday period.
It will argue that where public holiday penalty rates are payable on the additional holidays, such as Monday, December 27, they should not also have to be paid on December 25.
It will mount similar arguments relating to Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Australia Day.
“The way public holidays are proclaimed is vitally important, given that it impacts upon the penalty rates payable for days worked,” Ridout says.
“In an effort to head off this potentially costly confusion and uncertainty, AI Group has applied to Fair Work Australia to take action which will clarify the situation and provide consistency across the country.”
Ridout said the introduction of modern awards should not impose additional public holiday penalty costs upon employers.
“Many employers in many industries need to operate over the Christmas-New Year period, including, for example, employers with continuous manufacturing processes,” she says.
Ridout says with the holiday season fast approaching, employers need to make decisions about operational arrangements and give their employees plenty of notice.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Small Business Council of Australia, says small businesses can prepare for the public holidays with the following tips:
- Plan ahead. Put in place contingency plans that don’t cost any money.
- If you plan on operating over the holidays, have additional staff on standby in case it’s busier than expected.
- Prepare your staff by notifying them in advance of their work requirements.
- Make sure you incorporate employee penalty rates into your costings. Ring the appropriate association or Fair Work Australia to clarify these.
- Don’t overwork yourself. Allow yourself some time to spend with loved ones.