All I want for Christmas is … HR Compliance!

Part 1 – The Holidays Are Upon Us!

Welcome to Part 1 of our 2-Part End of Year Blog Series. If you’re anything like us, Christmas has certainly snuck up on you this year… who can believe 2018 is almost over?! We’ve written this blog series to support you, the busy business owners and managers to get through the ‘silly season’ with as little fuss as possible.

As business owners and managers, we anticipate the trickiness of negotiating holiday periods, with leave, closures, recognition and Christmas parties being only some of the things we need to plan for. Below, you’ll find our simplest tricks to get you through to 2019 with a smile on your face, and the faces of your colleagues and team members.

Read more for some tips on

  • Public Holidays
  • Annual business closures/shut downs
  • The team Christmas Party

Public Holidays

We all love a Public Holiday – days off during the week are rarely met with any sort of argument from our team members!  It is however, important to understand your obligations as an employer when it comes to payment and rostering on these days. Remember, Public Holidays can differ depending on the state or territory you work in so be sure to check the Fair Work website to make sure you’re working off the declared Public Holidays for your area, each year.

Here are some key points regarding Public Holidays to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • Public Holidays apply to all workers, regardless of any award, agreement or contract;
  • Employees are entitled to be absent from work on a day or part-day that is a Public Holiday;
  • If an employee is absent from work on a day or part day that is a Public Holiday, the employer must pay the employee (excluding casuals) the base rate of pay for the employee’s ordinary hours of work they would have worked on that day or part-day, if it wasn’t a Public Holiday. In plain English, this means that if an employee would normally work 5 hours on a Monday, and the Monday is a Public Holiday, then they need to be paid for 5 hours’ work at their base rate of pay;
  • If an employee works on the Public Holiday (whole or part day), they will likely be entitled to be paid penalty rates for hours worked. This will be most relevant for hospitality, retail and ‘emergency’ services.  The specific entitlement will be outlined in your relevant Award or Enterprise Agreement, with Christmas Day generally attracting the highest penalty rate;
  • An employee is not entitled to payment if they do not usually work on the Public Holiday. For example, a Part Time employee who does not normally work Mondays is not entitled to payment for a Public Holiday that falls on a Monday;
  • An employee has the right to reasonably refuse to work on a Public Holiday, dependant on a number of certain circumstances. This include the nature of the business (eg. Restaurant vs office environment), the employee’s family responsibilities and the amount of notice given by the employer to work the Public Holiday (the more notice, the better!).

More information regarding penalty rates, as well as when an employee can refuse to work on a Public Holiday, are available here.


Annual Closure/Shut-Down

A lot of small to medium businesses will designate a closure or ‘shut-down’ period for their business over the holiday season. You are well within your rights to do this; please keep in mind the following points to ensure transparency and ease of implementation for both you and your team members:

  • Consult with employees with as much notice as possible regarding the decision to close down over the holiday period, to ensure they understand why, for how long and what effect this will have on them (don’t forget to check any applicable instruments such as an Enterprise Agreement or Modern Award as it may have specific notice requirements, eg. A minimum of 4 weeks’ notice);
  • For permanent team members, wherever possible, make sure leave balances are available and up to date so that they can see how the leave period will affect their annual leave accruals;
  • Ensure you process leave and payroll correctly during the time of shut down, taking into account Public Holidays and any other factors.


Christmas Parties and other social occasions…

Most employees look forward to the Christmas Party season, and view work sponsored outings as an opportunity to spend social time with their team members outside of the daily grind. Christmas parties can be exactly this but I’m sure we’ve all borne witness to a work social event ‘gone wrong’ in the past… And I think we’d all agree that we’d rather not see it happen again!

If you are planning on hosting an event for your team, use these tips to ensure you meet your obligations and host a drama-free seasonal event!

  • In the lead up to the event, remind employees of your Code of Conduct and expected behaviours,both in person and in the social media realm. Whilst employees may not physically be ‘at work’, due to the work-related nature of the event, their behaviour could still land them in hot water if they breach any company policies or procedures;
  • In addition to your social media policy, you may also outline in a memo to employees your social media sanctions relating to the event.  Employees may be having such a great time at your event they may choose to take it to the next level on social media and do a Facebook Live, Instagram Story or a Snapchat.  It is a good idea to remind your employees of social media etiquette but also privacy restrictions and filming others without their permission;
  • If you are providing alcohol at your event, ensure there is sufficient food, non-alcoholic beverages and safe transport home for your employees;
  • If you are planning a non-traditional Christmas party such as a group activity (skirmish, obstacle course, amazing race etc) strongly consider the risks associated with the activity because if an employee injures themselves, the employer may be held liable for workers compensation;
  • If you are thinking about a themed Christmas party, make sure employees are reminded that any costumes or outfits chosen by them should not (nor perceived to be) offensive or inappropriate.
  • Set the example – whilst it might be tempting to let your hair down as well, remember that you need to role model responsible and sensible behaviour. Check in with your team during the event, make sure they are enjoying themselves responsibly and ensure they have a safe way to get home at the end of the night.
  • The after party – when sending out the invite to employees for your event, make it clear when the event starts and ends. Employees must be advised that any after parties are not endorsed by you as the employer and are not part of the employer’s organised event.  This is to minimise your risk as an employer should an incident occur at the after party.


If you’d like more information about HR or compliance, please visit our Seed HR Hub at or call one of our experienced consultants on (02) 4967 6695.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this Blog series, based on keeping your employees energised and motivated for the Holiday season in the next week!

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