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Seasonal absence warning for businesses

An employment law expert is warning businesses to have suitable contracts in place for staff to deal with busy periods such as Christmas.

Kate Shawcross, solicitor in the Employment team at Napthens, highlights that busy periods like Christmas and New Year are very important to many businesses, particularly those in the retail sectors.

With many staff looking to take time off, Kate warns it can be difficult to ensure that the business remains at full strength while employees are able to take the annual leave they request.

Many contracts of employment have a term which sets out a staff member’s responsibility to work ‘such additional hours as may be necessary’.

A recent Employment Tribunal case gave some clarity as to how this should be interpreted, after a worker refused to work extra hours over Christmas to help the business, a fine foods company, cope with the seasonal demand.

The tribunal found the employer’s request was reasonable, and the staff member’s refusal was not.

Kate Shawcross explained: “This situation demonstrates the importance of having appropriate and flexible contractual terms.

“Simply having a line in the terms and conditions which warns staff may have to work extra hours is not enough – a business must still maintain a relationship of trust and confidence between it and the employee.

“A business should be able to strike a balance between the needs of the staff member and the requirements of the business, but staff must also behave reasonably.”

Kate Shawcross, Employment Associate Lawyer