Can you force people to take leave at Christmas? Well the answer is, it depends.
To instruct people to take leave they must be:
Most community sector staff are covered by the Social, Community, Homecare and Disability Services Award 2010 (SCHADS). This Award is ‘silent’ in regards to instructing employees to take leave, therefore we cannot instruct a staff member to take annual leave, even at the annual office closure.
In saying that, many of us do shut down for a short period between Christmas and New Year. How most organisations get around this is by offering 3 days as additional annual leave, therefore employees do not need to dip into their annual leave accrual.
For those who don’t offer additional leave for the annual Christmas shutdown, the Annual Leave Policy should clearly state that the business closes for a period each Christmas and staff are expected to take leave. You can also allow staff to take leave without pay for this period if they do not want to use their accrued annual leave.
Be mindful however, that if an employee pushes back or challenges this, employers covered by the SCHADS Award cannot legally force people to take annual leave.
To avoid any push back, employers should give employees as much notice as possible (minimum 6 weeks) and socialise the need to take annual leave at Christmas through company policy and regular discussions at the time of recruitment and staff meetings.
For those employees who simply refuse, your options are: