By Catherine Williams
A study by travel website Expedia of more than 11,000 people found Australian workers take less annual leave than their entitlements allow them, with the average using only 14 of 20 paid days available. One-in-six Australians failed to take a single day of leave in 2018. This year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day and two weekends have just three business days in between. Easter and Anzac Day will not fall in the same week again until 2025. With this in mind, many employees may be looking forward to taking an extended break over Easter and Anzac Day, by taking three business days off, resulting in a 10-day break. In many ways it make great business sense to approve this leave as there are advantages for both the employee and the business. However it also raises a few questions.
What are the benefits?
Many of these employees have children who are on school holidays at the moment and it can mean some quality and quantity time together. This leave / holiday opportunity gives employees a chance to rest and recharge and come back to work refreshed with a likely lift in productivity. We have recommendations for leave and regularity of breaks for a reason! It’s also a great opportunity for business owners to take a well earned rest. Employers can also use this opportunity to give more junior members of their team a chance to ‘step up’ into a more senior role, during a less stressful time of the year. Business can also be quiet during this period so it’s a good opportunity for employers to decrease their annual leave liability.
Can I say no to a request for leave?
Most organisations require employees to submit leave requests for approval. An employer can say no if the employee does not have sufficient leave to cover the request or if there are too many employees trying to take leave at the same time. Obviously, it’s important there is sufficient coverage and that there is not going to be a negative impact to available services.
Can I force my employees to take annual leave?
This depends on the Modern Award or registered agreement. Employers can direct employees to take annual leave when an Award or registered agreement allows it and the requirement is reasonable. The requirement may be reasonable if, for example, the employee has an excessive annual leave balance or the employer’s business is being shut down for a period (such as between Christmas and New Year). Employment contracts and company policies may also contain provisions relating to the taking of annual leave and should be referred to in this instance.
How do I address sickies?
Research shows that there is an increase in the number of sick days taken during this time. It’s important for employers to discourage the taking of this sick leave when it’s not legitimate. Employers, in these circumstances, should ask for a doctor’s certificate and investigate if they think it is not legitimate – most employment contracts will have a clause around providing evidence to support Personal Leave.
Does it make business sense for your business to operate over this period?
For businesses which remain open over the entire holiday period, continuing to work also comes at a financial cost due to penalty pay rates – in many cases, double time and a half is the typical penalty rate for public holidays. This may be a good time for everyone to take a break!
What should you do as an employer moving forward?
It’s important that companies look at their yearly calendar, so that they can plan and work around these scenarios in advance. All businesses should have a process for employees to submit their leave requests. Some will manage these on a system of ‘who applies first’ but all managers should be actively managing their resources to ensure quality of services or output. All employers should have a clear policy around how to take Personal or Carers Leave and what evidence is needed, and when it’s required. Some businesses require evidence when the leave is more than 3 days, while some will require it when the leave is taken either side of a public holiday. It’s critical that employers manage leave and don’t allow massive leave balances to accrue, as this sits as a liability on the balance sheet. Employers might choose to lessen their revenue targets for this month and, perhaps, turn the focus to a wellbeing theme around relaxation and rejuvenation.
There is a whole chapter around leave management in Natasha Hawker’s book From Hire to Fire & Everything in Between. Including how to manage the latest leave entitlement – which is Domestic Violence and Family Leave. Employers need to understand that their employees are their greatest asset but, also, potentially their greatest liability, and should be treated as such.
If you would like assistance in developing your leave policies and reducing your annual leave liability, contact Employee Matters and book a complimentary Discovery Session with us.
If you are in any doubt about how to classify the workers in your business, contact Employee Matters and Book a complimentary Discovery Session with us to find out how we can help.