After a tumultuous year of lockdowns many employees and employers are looking forward to the Christmas closedown period. To help employers and employees navigate this time, we have set out some general guidance and answered your commonly asked questions.
This year, many of the public holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday. For an employee who works Monday to Friday, when a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the public holiday is "Mondayised", meaning the public holidays is observed on the next business day. If an employee would "otherwise work" on the Saturday or Sunday, the public holiday is observed on the Saturday or Sunday. Those employees receive time-and-a-half pay and a day in lieu.
For employees who work weekdays, the annual holidays will be observed as below:
Christmas Day, Saturday 25 December – observed Monday 27 December 2021
Boxing Day, Sunday 26 December – observed Tuesday 28 December 2021
New Year's Day, Saturday 1 January – observed Monday 3 January 2022
Sunday 2 January – observed Tuesday 4 January 2022
Annual leave can be hard to calculate depending on an employee's entitlements. If an employee does not have enough annual leave to cover the entire closedown period, the employer and employee can agree that annual leave is taken in advance. In the alternative, the employee may opt to take unpaid leave for the remainder of the closedown period so their annual leave balance is not negative.
If an employee is not entitled to annual leave, in accordance with the Holidays Act 2003, the employee should be paid 8% of their gross earnings from the start of their employment up until the commencement of the closedown period. The employee's anniversary for annual leave then moves to the start of the closedown date. The employer and employee may then agree that the employee takes annual leave in advance or unpaid leave for the remainder of the closedown period.
Can an employee change the date they take their annual leave?
Employers and employees can make alternative arrangements by agreeing to transfer the public holiday to another day, following the specific requirements in the Holidays Act.
Can an employer force employees to take annual leave over the closedown period?
If employers have a regular customary closedown period they can require employees to take annual leave over this time. Employers must give employees at least 14 days' notice of the closedown period and inform employees that they are required to take annual leave during this time.
How long can the closedown period be?
There is no maximum or minimum time that a closedown period can be, however, the Holidays Act indicates that the closedown period be customary. This means that the closedown period should be of a similar length each year. A Christmas closedown period usually covers both Christmas and New Year.
Can an employer have more than one closedown a year?
Under the Holidays Act, employers can only have one official customary closedown period each year. An employer can agree that they will close down over another period such as Easter, however, this will not be considered an official closedown period under the Holidays Act.
What happens if an employee falls sick or loses a loved one during an annual closedown?
If an employee falls sick or suffers a bereavement on a day they would otherwise had been working during the annual closedown, they are entitled to sick leave or bereavement leave payment rather than being paid their annual leave. We note this is different from when an employee falls sick or suffers a bereavement while taking annual leave outside of the closedown period.
The team at McVeagh Fleming wishes everyone a safe and happy holidays.
Please reach out if you have any questions and direct any enquiries to:
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Written by Melissa Johnston and Olivia Faulds
© McVeagh Fleming 2021
This article is published for general information purposes only. Legal content in this article is necessarily of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require specific legal advice in respect of any legal issue, you should always engage a lawyer to provide that advice.