Considerations for employers during the Easter holiday period

Considerations for employers during the Easter holiday period

It’s that time of year again when chocolate eggs fill the supermarket shelves and the Easter Bunny is set to make an appearance. But I’m a little concerned about the Easter Bunny’s workplace and whether they have considered all the issues with his employment situation over the holiday period.

In previous years there have been reports of Mr Bunny trespassing on private property and in some cases, break and enter offences, leaving behind some very incriminating paw prints. As an employee of the Easter Egg Corporation, it’s not one of those things that his employer should just be turning a blind eye to as they may find themselves vicariously liable for the conduct of Mr Bunny. Although vicarious liability is limited to actions committed by employees within the scope of their employment, there have been cases where employers have been held liable for intentional criminal acts committed by employees even when the employer had no intention to cause harm. The Easter Egg Corporation may wish to consider whether Mr Bunny’s employment contract, position description and company policies detail Mr Bunny’s role sufficiently including any unauthorised conduct. Any allegations of misconduct by Mr Bunny during his employment should be investigated promptly and dealt with in accordance with the company policies and procedures.

Another important consideration for the Easter Egg Corporation is that employees do not have to work on a public holiday. Although an employer may ask an employee to work on a public holiday, the request must be reasonable, and an employee can refuse to work if they have reasonable grounds. For example, Mr Bunny might have some family responsibilities (since he breeds like a rabbit). Given the needs of the workplace, the type of work Mr Bunny does and the fact that he had at least 12 months notice of the requirement to work at Easter, it might be more difficult for Mr Bunny to claim the request was unreasonable provided that appropriate penalty rates are paid.

The Easter Egg Corporation needs to be aware that there may be additional employee entitlements payable to Mr Bunny because he is being asked to work an overnight shift on a public holiday. Depending on his award or enterprise agreement, Mr Bunny could be entitled to public holiday penalty rates for the hours he works, there could be a minimum shift length that applies and he may even be entitled to time in lieu or an extra day of leave. If Mr Bunny is not covered by a specific award or enterprise agreement, his employment contract should be referred to to determine the correct rate of pay. All employers should be aware of the additional entitlements that may become payable if you plan to stay open during the public holidays.

Being an employer is never easy, but there are plenty of resources available for both employers and employees on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website. KC Hilton, WNB Legal