Getting your payroll right at Christmas

Closing for the Holiday season? Have employees working over the holidays?

Here’s what you need to know as an employer.


With the many changes seen this year, holiday season shut down and employee leave rules and regulations have modified slightly. As most businesses in Australia have a scheduled shut down of business during the Christmas and New Year holiday season, understanding your legal obligations as an employer during the holiday seasons means being aware of your legal responsibilities.

When dealing with issues around employees working and taking leave during the holiday season, ensure you know their work status, applicable Awards, Enterprise Agreements and pay rates – these will affect your decisions. 


Read the answers to the top 4 frequently asked questions about employees working during the holiday season:

1. Can I ask employees to work on public holidays over Christmas?

The answer is YES, however it cannot be mandatory. Employers are required to request an employee to work on a public holiday, if reasonable. An employee can refuse the request if it is not reasonable, or the refusal from the employee is reasonable given individual circumstances. Note that full-time employees must still receive their usual salary for the public holiday.

Use this link: Working on Public Holidays

2. Are there different pay requirements for public holidays?

The rule of thumb is yes, employees will receive penalty rates. Be aware of the award or agreement covering your employees. Employee work type (full-time, part-time, casual) will greatly impact the pay rates as well.

Use this link: List of Awards and Agreements 

3. Can I direct employees to use annual leave during shut down?

Yes, provided guidelines are taken into account. Covering annual shut down plans in the Letter of Employment, as well as letting employees know in advance are the best ways to avoid problems. Best practice is to check the Award or Enterprise Agreement, as it usually includes a requisite notice period to be given to the employee.

Use this link: Employee Annual Leave Guidelines

4. What if an employee doesn’t have enough accrued leave?

If the Award or Agreement provides for it, you can direct an employee to take annual leave in advance of accrual, or unpaid leave for part of the time. However, if an employee doesn’t agree to either, they have to be paid their ordinary pay rate for the shutdown as they can’t be forced to take unpaid leave.

Use this link: Annual Leave during shut down

Remember to acknowledge your employee’s rights and make the holiday season start smooth for all involved!


For more information about staffing and shutting down over the holiday season, visit Fair Work.

For any questions about your rights and obligations as an employer during the holiday season, contact us now for expert guidance.

Readers also enjoyed: 4 tips if you are working over the Christmas/ New Year period


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