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Managing Staff During the Christmas Period

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The Christmas period is fast approaching and many people are already planning festivities for their well-earned time off. However, if you don’t plan ahead, it can be a tough time of year if you’re a business owner or manager. Whether Christmas directly affects your business through extra demand or more indirectly with staff requesting holiday leave all at the same time, the Christmas period has a large impact on the majority of businesses in the U.K. 

Firstly, with people increasingly likely to get their Christmas shopping done early online. Be wary of productivity levels on so-called ‘Black Friday’. Last year, the majority of sales on ‘Black Friday’ were made online and as such, one assumes, whilst at work. Make sure your Internet Usage Policy is fair but enforceable so that business productivity doesn’t suffer.

Understandably, many employees will request time off over the holiday season for a variety of reasons, whether it be spending time with family and friends, attending Church or going away to sunnier climes. As an employer, you may have to take some tough decisions on when and for how long you allow employees time off. However, your annul leave policy should be made clear in employees’ contracts or the company handbook so that employees are clear on the procedures for booking time off and whether there are restrictions on when holiday can be taken.

Conversely, you may decide that closing the business for all or part of the Christmas period would be a more practical arrangement. Again, this should be identified in employees’ contracts or the company handbook. If you follow this route, then it’s important to ensure employees retain sufficient annual leave entitlement throughout the year so they avoid a nasty shock if mandatory leave leaves them with unpaid holiday after an expensive Christmas.

Also, remember that Christmas and New Year fall on the weekend this year so there will be bank holidays on 26th and 27th December 2016, as well as 2nd January 2017. Whilst there is no statutory right to have any of these days off as paid leave, make sure you’re aware of your company policy regarding bank holidays. Are bank holidays included as part of the holiday entitlement, or are they additional days off? Do the needs of your business dictate that staff need to work on bank holidays?

It’s not only annual leave requests that add extra pressure during the Christmas period. If it’s not managed correctly, sickness absence can also be damaging to your business. It’s inevitable that staff will pick up colds and the flu during the winter but is your sickness absence policy clear on how much time off sick will be paid leave? If your employees work indoors, is the office warm enough to avoid health and safety issues? Your office should be at least 16˚C, or 13˚C if the work involves large amounts of physical activity.

However, sometimes people may try to abuse the sickness absence policy, especially the day after a work Christmas party! Whilst it’s easy to jump to conclusions about a suspected hungover employee, it’s important to remember to correctly follow your disciplinary procedure and decisions must be based on evidence. Make sure employees know before they attend a staff party that there could be disciplinary consequences if they fail to turn up for work the following day or arrive to work smelling of last night’s mulled wine. Also, make sure, your policies regarding misuse of alcohol and social media are made clear to staff and that your disciplinary policy backs this up. You don’t want offensive texts or pictures of a new office romance arriving at 1am after a Christmas party!

Luckily there’s still enough time to make sure your policies are up to date and prepared for the tricky Christmas period so that you can enjoy the festivities without concern over how your business will be affected. We can help by carrying out a free 'HR Health Check' to establish if your HR policies offer your business and your employees sufficient and legal protection. To book an ‘HR Health Check’ or to find out more about our outsourced-HR and Employment Law services, call 0808 1151 040 or email info@klglaw.co.uk.

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