What staff issues do I need to consider over the holiday season….

“Health & Safety” I say…..and you say “Ho, ho, ho…. hum drum!”

Well, there are a few Health & Safety matters you need to be aware with regard to your business responsibilities over the holiday season.

Most businesses will be looking forward to their Christmas party and you as a business owner should be aware of your responsibilities with regard to Health & Safety during these functions.  Your responsibilities extend beyond your business front doors.

If one of your employees gets hurt going to, during or leaving a work function then your business would bear the ACC liability.  The rationale for this is that your employee would not have been in that unsafe situation had it not been for your business function.

Additional to the Christmas party, other functions this is relevant for includes conferences, meetings and any other function an employee attends for or on behalf of the organisation.

Also be aware that WorkSafe may question you about your Health & Safety systems should they receive a report of unsafe practices.

You should consider whether your business covers the costs of meals, entertainment and/or alcohol at a Christmas party.  Some organisations make a contribution to meals and some pay for everything including any alcohol.  If you do this then you should ensure your staff are able to get home safely including considering paying for taxis or putting on a shuttle bus.

Be aware that people will often drink more when they are not paying for the alcohol themselves.

This is also a good time to think about your branded vehicles.  Is it a good look for your business to have branded vehicles parked outside the local Pub?  You really wouldn’t want your current and potential customers seeing that you allow staff to consume alcohol whilst driving your branded vehicles…or would you?

Business Close Down
If your business has a compulsory close down period over the holiday season then now is the time to be advising your staff of this.  As a minimum you need to be giving your staff 14 days’ notice of the close down..  Your staff are required to take annual leave over this period.  Remember though that your staff should be paid as normal for Public Holidays but only if that Public Holiday falls on one of their normal working days.

Cashing up Annual Leave
As it’s a season of spending you may have a request from a staff member that they wish to cash up annual leave.  Legislation allows you to do this however only one week of annual leave can be cashed up in any one year period and only once that staff member has accrued the leave.

Casual Staff
This is also a season where you may need more staff on board and hiring them on a casual basis over the busy retail, leisure and entertainment season is a good way to go.  A casual employee is one that comes to work when there is a need for that extra pair of hands or if one of your other staff members is away sick or on leave.  Do remember that you need a written employment agreement in place before they start any work.

Rest and Meal Breaks
For staff that are working it can be a very busy period.  As an employer you will need to ensure that your staff can take their entitled breaks.  Basically if you have a staff member who works 8 hours then they are entitled to one 10 minute paid rest break, then one 30 minute unpaid meal break and then another 10 minute paid rest break.  Their meal breaks can be longer than 30 minutes but should be unpaid.  Generally you should ensure they are spread evenly throughout the day although flexibility is possible and of course this would all depend on the need of the business.
December 2014