Once Labour Day has been [yes, believe it or not it’s this coming Monday], the next public holidays are at Christmas and New Year.
- there are four public holidays;
- this is a time that many businesses have their annual closedown period;
- many employees take their annual leave;
- some employees don’t have enough leave to cover this period;
- some employment agreements have special rates for these public holidays; and
- let’s face it, it is a busy busy busy time.
In the next few weeks, my colleague, Tasneem Begum, and I will be offering a free webinar for those employers who want a bit more information around those tricky calculations for leave at this time of the year. We will also be able to answer the questions you have and the challenges you face with leave during the Christmas/New Year period.
You are not alone with the questions you have – Questions we are often asked at this time of the year are about employing staff to cover the busy Christmas period. The key is to make sure you have the right employment agreement that correct covers this position. If you are paying holiday pay as a P.A.Y.G rate, ensure this is agreed, an identifiable component on pay slips, and that your wage, time and holiday records show the holiday pay as a separate component.
Closedowns – Closedowns usually happen at this time of the year and employers will now need to be thinking about giving employees 14 days’ notice of the closedown and the requirement for them to take their annual leave if they have an entitlement. The employer will also need to consider those employees who don’t have any physical entitlement to annual leave, because the employee has not been employed for 12 months. The employer will need to discuss paying these employees their accrued holiday pay and whether their anniversary date moves to the date of the closedown.
Public holidays are always tricky at this time of year. Workplaces that do not closedown are often short staffed because employees want their holidays over summer and when the children are on school holidays.
For these workplaces, there are often gaps in rosters that need to be filled and often employers will ask existing employees if they would like those shifts. This gives certainty to the employer that they have the staff to undertake the work, and an understanding to the employee that they will work a shift that they would not normally work.
Unfortunately, sometimes employees become unwell, or suffer a bereavement, and are unable to attend work. Usually this is simple and does not impact on the calculation for the day or how it is recorded in the leave records as the day is treated as a sick or bereavement day…
But this is not so on a public holiday!!!
The Holidays Act 2003 sets out that when this occurs the day is to be treated as an unworked public holiday rather than as sick leave or bereavement leave. This means that the employee will get a paid day off as an unworked public holiday, based on the hours they would have worked if they were not sick, and it does not matter if they have no sick leave entitlement available to them.
If an employee is scheduled to work on a public holiday and works for an hour but then goes home sick, this section would not apply, as this only applies when the employee has not worked on the day. The employee will be entitled to time and a half for time worked and an alternative holiday (if the day was an otherwise working day for them). If the employee has sick leave owing, they would be able to use that for the remainder of the day – but that would be paid at normal rates – not time and a half.
You will have often heard the phrase an “otherwise working day” in relation to an employee’s entitlement to public holiday pay and leave. In the event that an employee does not usually work on a day that a public holiday falls, but agrees to cover a person’s shift, and then happens to be sick on the day, then only for the purposes as set out above, the day would be classed as an otherwise working day.
Payment for Public Holidays – worked/unworked. This is an area that can confuse many employers as things like relevant daily pay, average daily pay, time and a half, and alternative holidays can come into play. It is important to know which calculations to use and when – which we will cover in our webinar.
For special situations about being on call over the Christmas period, transferrable public holidays, and what to do when an employee is sick or bereaved during their annual leave and on a public holiday, please attend our webinar to find out what to do and how to do it correctly.
By Lynn Booker, Senior Associate