How to Prepare Your Business for the Festive Season
The festive season is almost here and whilst your employees may be excited for the public holidays, end of year party or annual leave, are you as an employer ready? There is no shortage of concerns for employers leading up to, and during, the festive season which is why you should ask yourself the following questions to help you be as prepared as possible.
Are you hiring holiday workers?
For many employers the period leading up to and immediately after Christmas tends to be one of the busiest times of the year. Options available to businesses in this position include engaging casual workers or engaging workers for a fixed term. What is the most appropriate option depends on the business and the individual requirements of the role.
For employers in the retail industry especially, Christmas means extended trading hours and larger workloads for staff. If you choose to employ workers for the holiday season only (ie. on a fixed term contract), then it is of utmost importance that it is communicated to the worker that they are employed only for a set period of time, before they commence their employment.
Alternatively, you may choose to engage employees on a casual basis. Casual employees have no guaranteed hours of work, and usually work irregular hours but are entitled to a higher hourly rate than part-time or full-time employees.
All holiday workers should be issued an employment contract which clearly documents the type of engagement so that there is a clear understanding by all parties. This contract will need to be updated it you choose to change the type of engagement eg if you decide to keep your holiday worker longer than the time frame outlined.
How are you handling annual leave requests?
If your business is remaining open for the holiday period, you may require all hands on deck. Or perhaps you are closing down for the period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and would like to direct your employees to take leave. Regardless of which option is most appropriate for your business, the way you manage your employees’ annual leave requests or how much notice you need to provide your employees of a shutdown needs to be considered in advance.
If you are planning on closing down over Christmas and would like to direct your staff to take leave, the requirements are set out in the Modern Awards and registered agreement applicable to your business. This includes the amount of notice which must be given to your employees that they are directed to take leave. The amount of notice required varies across the Modern Awards, so it is important to be aware of the requirements for your business.
If employees do not have enough annual leave accrued to cover the shutdown period, employers may agree that the employee can take unpaid leave or annual leave in advance, so long as the applicable Modern Award or agreement allows for it.
What are your employees’ entitlements on a public holiday?
If an employee is on annual leave over the festive period, the employee must be paid for public holidays that fall on a day they would ordinarily have worked. The public holiday is not counted as annual leave, and as such the public holiday hours are not deducted from the employee’s accrued annual leave amount.
If however, the public holiday falls on a day that the employee would not ordinarily have worked, then they are not entitled to be paid for this day.
Are you planning on giving your staff a bonus?
In the lead up to the festive period, some employers may be contemplating whether or not to reward their staff with a bonus. Bonuses can help with boosting staff morale by showing appreciation for your staffs’ hard work, but should be handled carefully.
Employers are not obligated to pay bonuses. Employees have an obligation to perform their duties to the best of their ability at all times, and in return for their hard work they are provided with a salary or wage. If you do choose to offer a bonus, it is important to consider any contractual obligations and ensure that bonuses are issued in a way which does not expose you to any risks.
If you are only providing a bonus to some employees and not others, it is important that an objective criteria is applied. If this criteria is not adhered to by the employer, then an employee may be able to claim that they did not receive a bonus due to an unfair reason, which can expose employers to potential adverse action or discrimination claims.
The criteria should be linked to performance such as meeting key performance indicators, this way if an individual employee did not meet their target, this could justify non-payment because they did not meet the eligibility criteria.
Please note, all bonuses should be discretionary and employers should ensure their discretion is exercised in a way that is not in bad faith or for a discriminatory reason.
The festive period can be a difficult time for employers but as Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure is there to help. They can assist you with any questions you have relating to your obligations during the festive season, to ensure you are prepared and have peace of mind.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your workplace relations for the festive season, please contact Employsure Account Manager, Besim Ademi on phone 0407 909 482 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.