Ask LH: Can My Employer Force Me To Take Annual Leave During Shutdowns?

Dear Lifehacker, I work for a company that will be shutting down between December 20 and January 12. We have been instructed to take annual leave – 13 days total – during this break. That’s more than the half of my allotted leave. Is it legal for a company to dictate when you can take the majority of your holidays? Thanks, Kris

Dear Kris,

As a general rule of thumb, an employer cannot force you to use annual leave against your wishes – but you may need to take unpaid leave instead. This will be determined by your industry award or employment contract.

Some industries can direct employees to take annual leave during a shut down, while other industries must reach an alternative agreement, which may include receiving your ordinary pay rate during the shut down. For example, here are the rules under the 2010 Fast Food Industry Award, as outlined by the Fair Work Ombudsman:

Employees can’t be directed to take annual leave during a shut down under the Fast Food Award.

An employee can still agree to take annual leave, annual leave in advance or unpaid leave during a shut down.

However, if they don’t agree, they have to be paid their ordinary pay rate for the shut down. They can’t be forced to take unpaid leave.

An employee will continue to accumulate annual leave only when on paid leave during a shut down.

We can’t offer any specifics without knowing the nature of your job. Fortunately, the Fair Work Ombudsman website has an interactive tool that provides answers tailored to your industry. Just click here and follow the prompts. Good luck!


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