Dreaming of a holiday? With Christmas not too far away, most businesses will be operating with limited staff or completely closing, which means a well-deserved break is coming your way. But before you mentally switch off and begin relaxing, there are a few things HR managers and business operators need to ‘wrap up’. Here we point out three of them.

1. Do you know what days are public holidays during the Christmas period?

Public holidays can be tricky. To simplify things, we’ve compiled all of the public holidays in Australia over the Christmas period into this table:

Public holiday Date Australian states & territories
Christmas Day Friday 25 December 2020 All
Boxing Day Saturday 26 December 2020 All except TAS, NT, & SA
Additional Public Holiday Monday 28 December 2020 All
New Year’s Day Friday 1 January 2021 All
Australia Day Tuesday 26 January 2021 All


In addition to the above-listed dates, Thursday 24 December 2020 (Christmas Eve) is declared a public holiday from 6PM until midnight in Queensland and from 7PM until midnight in the Northern Territory and South Australia only.

And, on Thursday 31 December 2020 (New Year’s Eve) from 7PM to midnight, is declared a public holiday in both the Northern Territory and South Australia only.

It is important that you know which penalty rates apply for work performed on a day that is declared a public holiday in accordance with the applicable Award or Enterprise Agreement.

2. Is your business enforcing a Christmas shutdown?

Many businesses close during the quiet Christmas period with most Awards and Enterprise Agreements allowing employers to direct an employee to take a period of annual leave; subject to certain conditions. However, in the absence of an Award or Enterprise Agreement entitlement allowing an employer to direct employees to take a period of annual leave, employers will be unable to force an employee to take paid annual leave. Instead, employers will be required to seek an employee’s agreement to take a period of paid annual leave.

It’s important to remember that an employee cannot be required to take paid annual leave on a day that is declared a public holiday. Rather the public holiday is automatically treated as a paid absence with the employee receiving their base rate of pay for their ordinary hours of work on that day.

3. Hiring Christmas casuals? Have an employment contract in place

Christmas can be an extremely busy time of the year for some businesses, particularly for those in the retail sector. This seasonal increase in demand places pressure on these businesses to hire additional staff at this time of year.

There is nothing wrong with hiring additional staff to meet demand. However, it is important to understand that even casual employees can bring an unfair dismissal claim. To minimise the risk, you should have a written contract of employment for all employees, even Christmas casuals.

Have a question about the information in this article? Contact the team at enableHR.