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Our guide to avoiding the pitfalls of the silly season

The end of year should be happy and relaxing, but if you’re an employer it can present all kinds of headaches. Read our guide to mastering the end of year to make sure you start 2018 on the right foot.

Christmas time is supposed to be the most relaxing time of the year. But for employers, it can also present headaches. After all, there’s likely a Christmas party or end of year event with alcohol and office relationship-based challenges. There’s what to do with staff when it’s the quietest time of year and there won’t be enough work to keep them occupied. And there’s the fact that Christmas isn’t always a happy time – in fact, for many people it’s the most miserable time of year.

So, to help you navigate the end-of-year pitfalls and start 2018 on a winner, we’ve developed this guide to getting the holiday period right.

Consider a closedown

Unless you’re in retail or hospitality, the period over Christmas and New Year is usually a quiet one. So you may choose to shut down your operations and make your employees take some time away from work. Generally speaking, there’snothing wrong with this and its fairly common practice. The Fair Work Act allows you to direct an employee to take leave when you want them to, even if they don’t have any annual leave accrued.

The bad news (there’s always bad news), is that your right to do this, and the procedure you’ll need to follow, could be curtailed by any Awards and Agreements that apply to your workforce. The good news is that the FairWork website lets you easily check what you’ll need to do, based on the industry in which you operate and the nature of the work your employees perform. Just make sure that you give yourself enough time to get it right by checking it out as soon as possible and letting your employees know about your plans asap.

What if your staff don’t have accrued leave?

As we’ve already mentioned, you can instruct employees not to turn up, even if they don’t have leave accrued. In order for this to happen you generally have a few options, including:

  • Directing them to take unpaid leave.
  • Letting them fall into a negative annual leave balance, also known as taking annual leave in advance.
  • Keeping only a skeleton staff on to oversee operations, and allowing people with no leave balance to be part of it.
  • Letting long-standing employees use part of their long service leave entitlement.

Remember, if you employ casual staff you won’t need to pay them if they’re not at work. However, you should always make sure that your staff in this situation truly are casuals and not permanent part-timers – otherwise, you’re likely to be in breach of their statutory conditions of employment. You can read about what makes an employee a casual on the FairWork website.

Keep a look out for changed behaviour

For many people, Christmas can be a stressful time, personally and financially. After all, not everyone has a happy home life and the sheer cost of this time of year – including presents, travelling and socialising – often gets compounded when less money is coming in. So keep an eye on your staff to make sure they’re ok.

If you notice any significant or abrupt change in a staff member’s behaviour; if they seem too down, or even too up, intervene. Ask them if they’re ok. Make sure they have access to the resources they need. And do what you can to support them.

Keep the Christmas party tight

The Christmas party is so often a source of workplace tensions. Little wonder when it’s probably one of the few times people are encouraged to cut loose on the job. But there’s a fine line between having fun and going overboard, and as an employer it’s your job to make sure that line doesn’t get crossed.

There’s a few simple things you can do to help people keep it classy, including:

  • Planning the function with your employees in mind. That includes choosing the right venue and theme, as well as any exit and arrival plans.
  • Providing adequate food and non-alcoholic beverages. Not everyone wants to end up hammered or even drink at all – aside from this being a good risk-reduction strategy, it’s important to have options for everyone.
  • Setting clear start and finish times and dress standards. Don’t let the office Christmas function blend into the working day or into the wee-small hours if you can help it. At the same time, try to make sure people aren’t hanging around the venue you’ve booked in your own business name when they should have moved on.

And there you have it…

Some simple tips for staying on top of the Christmas period. If you have any questions about please don’t hesitate to contact us – otherwise have a wonderful break and we’ll see you in 2018!