Planning for the Christmas Holidays

Christmas and New Year 2011 will be a difficult year from two entirely different perspectives….

More and more employees are being required to work during the holiday period yet at the same time unemployment is likely to reach levels not seen for some 10-15 years.

Retailers will be desperate to maximise sales during what is usually their peak period and as a consequence hours will be stretched to ‘catch-all’. It will be interesting to see what the previously upward trend in eating out does as less money is available for such luxuries but no doubt the hotel and catering industry will be hoping and planning to staff accordingly. Conversely manufacturing and construction will tend to shut down and hope that 2009 brings some relief.
Whatever your situation pre-planning is essential and we do have some tips and reminders for you.

Christmas cards and gifts
Let’s put this one to bed! There is nothing wrong in sending Christmas cards, having a Christmas tree and decorating the office or workplace. However some sense does need to prevail – it would not be sensible to make a gift of alcohol to a Muslim and, if you do not know the recipient personally, send general greeting cards rather than those with a Christian theme.
Where business gifts are given and received then ensure that your own policy is circulated and adhered to and check out your client’s policy. Be discreet – wrapping up lots of ‘freebees’ for customers in the general office will not go down too well if they have been told they are not having a salary increase again this year.

Shut Down
Employers do have the right to control when employees take their holidays but it is important to ensure that the rules are spelt out. Where there is a shut down it is essential that employees are informed about ensuring that sufficient entitlement is retained. Where you have new employees you will also need to spell out their position when they start employment. If they have insufficient holidays accrued then you have several options:

  • Treat the time off as unpaid leave (this must be made clear in their offer letter or contract)
  • Allow them to bring forward entitlement (in which case you need to ensure that you have a clear written agreement that they will have payments deducted if they leave your employment before accruing sufficient entitlement)

Holiday staffing
If you require some employees to attend work during the holiday period in order to maintain service levels or for security or production then it is important to ensure that selection is fair and that sufficient notice is given. The best option may be to look for volunteers initially – not everybody looks upon Christmas as a time to have off to enjoy themselves!

There is always one at least who fails to turn in after the holiday, or who asks for time off which is refused and then coincidentally goes ill on the same days. Its good practice to remind staff well in advance what the arrangements are for taking holiday and returning to work. Some employers will require medical certificates from employees who are off ill immediately following the holiday. This may not be possible for some employees so a judgement may need to be made and providing it is spelt out in advance payment of holiday pay may be conditional upon your being reasonably satisfied that the illness was genuine.
Seasonal Workers

Recruitment of seasonal workers should not be an excuse for discarding good practice and your legal obligations.Health and safety training is essential as is the requirement to ensure that the worker is legally entitled to work in the UK.They are also entitled to receive at least the national Minimum Wage and be covered by the same Working Time Regulations as permanent workers.
Other Religious Festivals
It is essential (and a legal requirement) to ensure that members of all religions are treated the same.Requests for time off for religious observance should be considered seriously and either taken as part of holiday entitlement or unpaid leave.

The Christmas party
You may be cutting out Christmas parties this year but for those of you that are continuing this practice please put the usual checks in place:

  • Check the venue – make sure it is safe and an acceptable venue to all your workers.
  • Make sure everybody is included; including those on long term absence/maternity. Also include ALL partners – not just “spouse” or “husband/wife”.
  • Remind people about drink driving rules and arrange transport if at all possible.
  • Look out for underage drinking – you have a responsibility for your younger workers.
  • Don’t offer unlimited alcoholic drinks – you also have a responsibility for all workers and should not be surprised if the is alcohol fuelled trouble caused by your over generosity.
  • Remind employees that they are still covered by the terms of their employment as it is a work sponsored event.
  • Look out for harassment or any form of unwelcome personal attention. The office junior may have a smile on her face but does she welcome the close attention of her 50 year old boss?

Try and enjoy yourself!

Author: Tony Gibbs | December 11th, 2011

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Tony Gibbs
Get in touch:   Reading: 0118 916 5480   London: 020 7036 8767