While Melbourne Cup Day might be a little different this year (thanks to coronavirus), the race that stops the nation is still set to go ahead. And while the festivities may be a welcomed distraction from all of the challenges 2020 has presented, as an employer how do you allow your employees to have some fun (safely and responsibly) but at the same time, ensure the workday is productive? In this article, we’ll point out how you can.

Have your policies in place!

Inform your employees ahead of time what’s expected of them during the working day and remind them of what conduct is and isn’t appropriate. Through our Telephone Advisory Service (TAS), one of the most common questions we get asked around this time of year is: “Can employees claim a public holiday on Melbourne Cup Day?” If your employee is outside of Victoria, don’t let them fool you! They have no right to claim a public holiday or reap the benefits. Unless they have specifically taken a day of annual leave, they need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Tuesday 3 November!

When someone wants to “chuck a sickie”

Here’s another common story we hear from our clients: staff members who call early in the morning of Cup Day or the day after with a sudden case of ‘party-itis’ or claims their long-lost cousin twice removed on their mother’s side just died. No matter the excuse, ask for proof. Always ensure that your staff are aware of the personal leave policy and it’s a good idea to send out reminders and refreshers outlining the notice they must give and what may be required such as a medical certificate for an illness. 

Remote workers

With many employees still working from home, the traditional Cup Day office party won’t be taking place this year. But what if you suspect that an employee has decided to celebrate the big day when they’re meant to be working?

It’s important to recognise that the majority of people who work from home are productive and do well working in this setting – but this doesn’t suit everyone. Managing remote workers has its challenges, but there are some things you can do. Think about daily check-ins via Zoom to keep employees accountable and give your staff achievable deadlines to ensure that they are productive even when there are distractions.

If you can identify that an employee has been completely ignoring their responsibilities and is not performing work, then you may be able to consider undertaking a disciplinary process.

Keep it fun. Be responsible

If you have staff in the workplace, and you do decide to throw an office shindig, it’s important to ensure that you’re operating in accordance with the relevant state restrictions and guidelines.

This may mean that only smaller groups can participate in the festivities or that you celebrate the day in a way which allows your employees to socially distance from one another.

Alcohol in the workplace can be a fun way to socialise with the team, but as always, put a limit on any alcohol consumed and remember responsible drinking practices. Some important things to consider:

  • What are your workplace policies?
  • What are the legal requirements?
  • If employees need to go back to work at full capacity afterwards, make sure this is communicated before the festivities begin.

Do I have to pay anything to my staff if I am based in Victoria?

Underpayment grievances are never fun to deal with and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for both parties. To combat and avoid these issues you must make sure that you are aware of your obligations. Public holidays attract fun as well as penalty rates! If you have a full-time or part-time employee in Victoria covered by an Award, then the Award will prescribe an employee’s public holiday entitlement depending on whether they do or don’t work the public holiday. For Award-Free employees who are not required to work on the public holiday, you should look into section 116 of the Fair Work Act 2009. To save you some time we have inserted the clause below:

“…an employee is absent from his or her employment on a day or part-day that is a public holiday, the employer must pay the employee at the employee‘s base rate of pay for the employee‘s ordinary hours of work on the day or part-day.”

What this clause essentially means is that if the public holiday falls on a day the employee would have normally worked, then the employee still needs to be paid their ordinary rate of pay as if it was an ordinary day.

If however, you have employees (this includes permanents AND casuals) who work on the public holiday, then they’ll need to be paid the public holiday penalty rates stipulated in the modern award or enterprise agreement that covers them.

If you have any questions relating to leave policies and alcohol in the workplace, get in touch with our Telephone Advisory Team.