Zee Hussain from Simpson Millar shares his HR guide for the festive period
During the festive period, it makes sense that employees embrace the celebrations with open arms; presents, the office party, and that bit of extra time off work to be with loved ones. And whilst this should be encouraged, as employer's preparation and communication is key.
This employers’ HR guide provides some useful information and tips on how best to avoid the embarrassing stories, HR-headaches, and any other potential pitfalls for employers during the festive period.
In an ideal world, all employees could clock off ahead of Christmas Eve and not need to return until the New Year, but the truth of the matter is that many businesses don’t lock up shop over the festive period.
As such: employers should expect a higher than usual demand for annual leave as we approach the festive period.
The key to dealing with this effectively is to be prepared and remember that whilst the employee has the right to request annual leave (within their entitlement), the employer has the right to refuse it.
Likewise, employers can require employees to take annual leave at a certain time of the year and or cancel approved annual leave in line with the business needs.
The caveat here is that the employer must give sufficient notice under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and comply with any notice provision stated within the employee’s contract.
If you are intending to close between Christmas and New Year, it is good practice to have a clause within the holiday section of an employee’s contract to confirm that X number of days must be reserved for use between this period as the workplace will be closed.
For more information on notice periods please contact us.
Many employees will turn to the internet to do their last minute Christmas shop as the number of available shopping days dwindles away the closer we get to Christmas Day.
The approach to using the internet for personal matters at work varies between employers; just make sure that you have a steadfast policy.
You may have an outright ban on any type of personal use, or perhaps a more relaxed approach - the key is to check that your IT policy clearly states your intentions as the employer.
In the event that an employee is spending more time using the internet for personal matters, as an employer, you can turn to your policy.
Secret Santa is now much more commonplace, and usually, it is a chance to exchange thoughtful gifts with colleagues. Though the roots of Secret Santa are in a jovial place, some may see it as an opportunity to embarrass another employee in disguise; it is not without risk for the employer.
It is quite often the case that employees taking part in such a tradition purchase an offensive gift with the intent of embarrassing a fellow colleague. Whilst the ‘Secret Santa’ may find this amusing, the recipient may not.
You should have an up to date policy on equal opportunities, bullying, and harassment. It should confirm that purchasing gifts to cause (or which are likely to cause) offence will lead to disciplinary action under the company policy.
Whether or not something is deemed offensive, will be judged with reference to the impact on the recipient - and not to others, this is the approach taken in the Equality Act 2010.
Your Christmas party should be an opportunity to thank employees for their work throughout the year. The party should be a place to celebrate, enjoy and relax in the company of colleagues.
That said: employees should be made explicitly aware in advance that the Christmas Party is an extension of the workplace. Any inappropriate conduct at the event will be treated in the same way as it would be had it have occurred in the office.
Send out a simple reminder by email ahead of the party reiterating the company policy explaining any inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and acts of physical violence will be dealt with under the company’s disciplinary policy.
Your disciplinary policies must also make reference to Christmas/workplace parties.
Ensure that all employees are invited to the Christmas party, including those away from the business, for example, or those on maternity/paternity/adoption leave, and sick leave.
Post Party Sick Day
Whilst it may be unavoidable that embarrassed or even still intoxicated employees call in sick the morning after the work party, employers should remind employees in advance that the usual procedures and penalties apply.
5 Tips For A HR Headache-Free Festive Period:
1. Review your HR policies to ensure they are fit for purpose, the key ones relating to this issue being disciplinary, grievance, equal opportunities, anti-bullying, harassment, and sickness absence.
2. Implement policies to assist the business in dealing with the issues mentioned in this guide if they are not already in place.
3. Remind/inform employees where the policies can be found.
4. Offer refresher training to managers on the key issues and how to handle them.
5. Adhere to your policies should the issues mentioned in this guide or indeed any others arise.
The festive period should be one that everyone can enjoy and celebrate. However, issues during the festive period can result in the employer being liable for costly claims such as; discrimination, unfair dismissal and sexual harassment.
This guide is not intended to remove the fun and festivity of Christmas. However, by taking some simple steps, being pro-active and communicating well with employees, employers can reduce risk to the business and ensure a smoother ride for the management team.
Preparation Is Key
If you need practical advice on any aspect of HR or employment law ahead of the festivities, Simpson Millar are offering a fixed fee service to review your policies. This will ensure that your gifts will be the only costly thing for you and your business this Christmas.
If you would like to discuss any of the matters mentioned in this guide or further ways to protect your business ahead of the festive period, please call the Employment Law Team on: 0808 129 3320
Alternatively, you can visit our new HR Support Service for Business: HR ORACLE
Brought to you by Simpson Millar, a top national law firm with decades of experience in employment law and HR legal support, HR Oracle delivers our expertise direct to your business, whenever and wherever you need it.