By Mehmet Musa

The festive season is here! And while we’re all busy thinking about how to spend our well-deserved breaks, many businesses will be preparing for their annual closures over the Christmas and New Year period. To make sure you don’t miss anything important as you wind down for the year, I’ve put together an easy-to-follow shutdown checklist that’ll get you out of the office in no time:

1. Inform your staff of the closure in advance

  • Plenty of notice will allow staff to effectively plan out their holiday period (including any handover or finalisation of projects, as well as personal commitments to manage). This will also ease the workload of your HR team and managers as it gives them more time to process leave applications.
  • Some modern awards or enterprise agreements permit directions to be made to employees to require them to take annual leave over close-down periods. Ensure that if you’re using these clauses, you provide the minimum period of notice specified in the instrument. 

2. Review your employment obligations

  • If an employee works on a public holiday, penalty rates may apply (check the award or enterprise agreement).
  • Permanent employees are also entitled to be paid their usual wages on public holidays if the business is shut down and they usually work those days.
  • Employers should be mindful that if a public holiday falls on a weekend such as Christmas Day in 2021, there will often be an additional public holiday to make up for it on the Monday or Tuesday thereafter. Employers should check their relevant State or Territory Government website for an official public holiday list.
  • Similarly, it’s also worth noting that different States and Territories may differ in their observance of public holidays and employers should be mindful of this.

3. Prepare for staff events

  • Update staff emergency contacts.
  • Remind staff of behavioural expectations and your workplace Code of Conduct in the lead up to any Christmas or end of year work functions.
  • Implement safety processes including limits on alcohol consumption and transport home from events.

4. Offices and work areas

  • Update your out-of-office email responses and voicemail accordingly to keep clients and customers in the loop.
  • Ensure the office is locked and electronic equipment is powered down.
  • Protect your data by backing up your IT systems.
  • Empty work fridges, making sure all perishable food items are disposed of.
  • Remove valuable items or place them out of view.
  • Make sure all cabinets are locked with the key safely secured.
  • Unplug all fans and heaters and close all curtains to maintain a cool office.
  • If you’re planning to have a limited roster of staff during the shutdown, it’s important to clarify accountabilities such as who will have access to the building and when.
  • Have clear guidelines and escalation processes available to staff should they require it – along with updated emergency contact details provided to the staff; and
  • Consider setting up a petty cash fund outlining the reasonable expenses staff may incur and be reimbursed for in the performance of their role. This is especially relevant if staff are required to undertake additional responsibilities within the shutdown period.

If this article has raised any questions for you about end of year shutdowns or how to handle employee leave during this period, please reach out to our employment law experts via our 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

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Mehmet Musa is a Workplace Relations Advisor at HR Assured. He has a particular interest in retail industry compliance and meeting the diverse needs of clients within an evolving legal framework. Mehmet regularly provides advice on workplace matters to assist clients.