Help! None of my staff want to work over Christmas!

Team Management

Dear EI,
I own and manage a pub on the coast, I have a team of fifteen front of house staff and they’re great, but with the holidays approaching everything is turning sour because no one can agree on rostering over the holidays.

Usually if there is a request I just look in the diary and if it can be covered then it’s fine, but now everyone is coming to me with requests for the same days off and I actually can’t spare anyone, its the busiest period of the year!

The majority of my employees are casual and are willing to be rostered on but both of my supervisors are permanent full-time. I have already said yes to one supervisor and now the other supervisor has come to me with another request at short notice, this overlaps with the leave I have already granted to my other supervisor on a couple of busy days.

The problem is, one of them has children and is arguing that they should get priority of choice, help! I’m worried that I’ll end up with no staff at all during my busiest period of the year, what do I do?


SB – worried pub owner 

Dear SB,

When responding to employees’ requests for annual leave, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with employees’ entitlements to annual leave and your obligations, particularly under the National Employment Standards under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Under the National Employment Standards, annual leave may be taken for periods agreed between an employer and employee and an employer must not unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take annual leave.

The first step will be to determine whether your employees are covered by an agreement or an award. This may specify certain conditions regarding requests for annual leave (in addition to those under the National Employment Standards). You will also have to consider whether you have a leave policy in place at your business. This may also specify certain requirements around leave requests and/or establish a process to follow in considering employees’ requests for leave.

With regards to your situation, we recommend that you talk to the employee and find out his or her reasons for making an application for leave on short notice and his or her flexibility around the request. If you can’t reach an agreement with the employee on this, you would need to consider whether the request can be accommodated bearing in mind your obligations and the employee’s entitlements under the National Employment Standards and any applicable award or agreement.

Hope that helps,


Ben Thompson

CEO at Employment Innovations (EI)

Ben Thompson is CEO of EI ( and Employment Hero (, established to provide small and medium sized businesses with the type of legal, HR and payroll services that big business take for granted. He is a solicitor with an excellent success record defending clients in State and Federal jurisdictions, winning several Full Bench appeals. Ask him about employment law, and HR strategy.