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The twelve days of Christmas – HR Edition

On the first day of Christmas, HR gave to me – Secret Santa pressure

Secret Santa is a tradition in the office that goes back years. However, with employees struggling more than ever this year due to the ongoing cost of living crisis, employers need to be mindful of individual financial situations. Employers must ensure that there is no pressure to take part in any office Secret Santa, or similar event.

On the second day of Christmas, HR gave to me – Christmas party pitfalls

Christmas parties can be a great way to reward your employees after a year of hard work, but often a nightmare for the employer. A combination of alcohol-fuelled behaviour and a party atmosphere can be a recipe for disaster and employers must remember that employment law will still apply at the Christmas party, even if the party takes place outside of the work premises and outside of working hours.

Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees at Christmas parties. To try to combat this, employees should be reminded of the need to behave appropriately and you should ensure that you have robust policies in place to support the ability to take action in response to any inappropriate behaviour.

On the third day of Christmas, HR gave to me – a Christmas productivity dip

Do they know its Christmas time at all?! We have all been there, clock watching the day away waiting (im)patiently for the Christmas break. How can employers keep the workforce productive during the Christmas period?

Employers should consider being more flexible throughout the festive period to keep up morale. You can consider the use of incentives and set up festive activities to keep the team motivated. Be conscious of the high level of annual leave that is taken in December and monitor workloads. Employees could be suffering in silence whilst covering work for their colleagues. Be mindful of work-life balance during the festive period as always and finally, encourage Christmas spirit at work.

On the fourth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – increased absences during December

Late alcohol-fuelled nights turn into missing the alarm clock. Employers may find themselves with a decline in attendance and poor timekeeping from their employees as we head into the festive period. If employees are unwell, they must follow the absence reporting policy to authorise their absence. Remember that employees are not entitled to be paid for any period of unauthorised absence so if employees are late to work, or fail to attend without reason, employers may make deductions in accordance with the contract of employment, where permitted. If you have genuine concerns about the legitimacy of an absence, you may be able to investigate it under the disciplinary procedure.

Whilst you can’t necessarily control what employees do in their spare time, you should be mindful of your alcohol and drugs policy, particularly where an employee is in a safety critical role such as a driver or someone who operates machinery. If an employee has a heavy night, they may not be fit for their duties the morning after. In appropriate circumstances, you may wish to consider introducing a drug and alcohol testing policy.

On the fifth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – last minute holiday requests

For many businesses, the holiday year runs from January to December. With a ‘use it or lose it’ policy in place, you may see a mad rush from employees to get their holiday requests in before they lose the opportunity to take it.

Holiday requests should be managed effectively, starting earlier in the year. Be clear in your communications that holiday must be taken before the end of the year and give a gentle nudge to those employees who have holiday remaining. You should take the stance of operating on a ‘first come first served’ basis and as a last resort you may decide to allow holiday to carry over on a discretionary basis, if it is not already a contractual entitlement.

On the sixth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – an inclusive and diverse workforce

Whilst it is easy to allow Christmas festivities to consume the whole month of December, remember that not everyone in the workplace will celebrate Christmas and may not want to take part in Christmas activities. You do not want a discrimination claim for Christmas!

This also applies to food choices at the Christmas party and contents of a Christmas gift (alcohol isn’t always a safe option!).

On the seventh day of Christmas, HR gave to me – winter blues

What is normally a joyous and festive occasion can be a difficult time for others. Be mindful that employees may struggle at this time of year. Take the time to speak to your employees and get to know them so that employees feel more comfortable to open up.

You should ensure you have appropriate mechanisms in place, including mental health first aiders and appropriate policies in the first instance.

On the eighth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – a full Company shutdown 

If you operate a Christmas shutdown and employees are lucky enough to benefit from an extended break, make sure you give them plenty of notice. If there is a requirement for employees to save annual leave for the Christmas shutdown, make sure that this is communicated early on and is clear in contracts of employment.

On the ninth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – gifts and the Bribery Act policy

During the lead up to the festive period, your clients and customers may be generous enough to provide gifts to your team. You should ensure that all staff are aware of the company’s anti-bribery policy in advance.

On the tenth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – travel disruption

As the weather takes a turn, employees will be faced with the challenge of getting to work in adverse weather conditions. This will undoubtedly cause delays and can have knock on effects on the public transport options available.

You should encourage employees to plan their commute in advance and where severe delays are expected, or it would be considered too dangerous to make the commute into work, allow some flexibility such as varied working hours or the option to work from home.  It’s advisable to have an adverse weather conditions policy so that employees know what to do in advance.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, HR gave to me – a Christmas bonus

After a successful year it may be time to reward your employees for all of their hard work. Whether this is a contractual obligation or done on a discretionary basis, there are a number of considerations to be aware of before handing out the cash.

If you have eligibility criteria in place, make sure that the criteria is not discriminatory in any way. For example, if an employee’s attendance is taken into account, you should make sure you are not discriminating against an employee who has been absent due to a disability.

Be careful with discretionary bonuses as even when you believe there is no obligation to pay a bonus, if it has always been made and is now expected by employees, it may have become contractual through past custom and practice of paying the bonus.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, HR gave to me – children’s Nativity plays

At this time of year parents have the joy of attending their little one’s Nativity play. This is likely to prompt some requests for a late start/early finish, or the ability to work from home. Whilst there is no legal entitlement to time off for these events, it is a good idea to consider being a little more flexible and have consideration to the impact on morale if you do not grant the request.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year from the Napthens Employment Team!

HR at Christmas