By Thomas Parer and Lindsay Carroll, NRA Legal

The Christmas holiday period is a vital time of the year for many retailers, with many patiently waiting for the expected uptick in sales. This busy period of the year can bring with it many problems for employers to grapple with before they can reap the rewards of the season.

Luckily, in our upcoming “Top Tips from Santa Claus’ HR Department” webinar on Tuesday, 24 September 2019 at 11:00am, we will be guiding members through some of the major issues that employers will have to navigate in this upcoming Silly Season.

The Pitfalls of Christmas Parties

One of the often over-looked aspects of the period is the work Christmas party. This celebration is a firmly established aspect of work culture around the world, and can vary from a relaxed dinner event organised by a staff social club, to a destination celebration inclusive of flights, accommodation and everything in between.

Whatever the case, these events can pose a number of risks to a business in the form of employee misconduct, and increased opportunities for injury. Unfortunately, the staff Christmas party seems to be the time when professional boundaries not only get lowered, but thrown out the window. When alcohol, and sometimes even drugs, enter the mix – things can quickly go off the rails.

So what’s an employer to do? In our webinar we’ll be diving deeper into what an employer can do to try to cut these risks off at the pass, and what an employer needs to be aware of during the festivities.

Managing the influx of Christmas Casuals

We’ll then be moving onto the key considerations an employer should be making as they move to on-board their annual intake of Christmas Casuals with 67% of Christmas job opportunities in Australia being created in the retail sector to help serve the Christmas shopping frenzy.

With Christmas fast approaching and the regulator’s recent focus on compliance in the retail and fast food sectors, it is critical that retailers understand their obligations with respect to casual employees and the rostering requirements of the Modern Awards.

While the intention behind hiring casuals is to have a temporary and flexible workforce, there are still a number of ways where employing these workers can go wrong, and so we will go into some detail about some of the key considerations that will need to occur to avoid unexpected cost blow-outs and unfortunate wage compliance surprises, such as:

  1. What is your business strategy over the Christmas period and having regard to past experience, how equipped is the store to deal with high demand at that time of year?
  2. Does the existing workforce have the capacity to scale up for extended trading hours over Christmas and if not, what is your recruitment strategy?
  3. During the recruitment process, how do you communicate the business needs over the peak period and have you considered the opportunity for continued employment beyond the Christmas period?
Absences and leave during the holiday period

Finally, we will dive deeper into the tricky issue of managing leave over this peak period. While many employers rely on and expect that if they put in place a ‘block out’ to avoid any reduction in their workforce and capacity to handle the busy crowds, that will not stop some employees from attempting to take time off around this time of year.

The Fair Work Act 2009 requires that in most cases, annual leave is to be taken by agreement. However, there exists the requirement that an employer must not “unreasonably refuse” an annual leave request by an employee, and this exception can open up the rights of an employee to take this time off. We will go into detail about how to avoid any unexpected risks associated with leave requests and absences over this period.

So if you want to make sure your toolkit is full and ready for the busiest period of the year, make sure you register your place in our FREE webinar. The webinar will take place at 11.00 am AEST on 24 September 2019.

To register your interest for this free event and submit your questions to be answered during each webinar, register here or call our workplace relations hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).