Christmas: Is it the most wonderful time of the year?
How much does Christmas really cost a business? Cecily Donoghue, employment solicitor at Gregg Latchams, considers the practical pitfalls of the festive season and provides helpful guidance for employers to avoid incurring unexpected liabilities.
The run up to Christmas is meant to be an enjoyable time of year. From a business perspective it can be spent reflecting on the year past and planning the year ahead. However, it can also be a busy and stressful time – littered with unexpected issues and the risk of claims.
We don’t aim to cast damp spirits over anyone’s exciting plans, but being prepared is often the most effective way of minimising the chance of a small issue developing into a time-consuming and costly legal claim. Here are some of the topics you should consider as we head into the festive period:
- In light of the recent snow that many parts of the UK have enjoyed (or suffered!), make sure that you have a policy in place to deal with any weather related
There is no automatic entitlement to pay if an employee is unable to get to work because of bad weather.
- Consider whether there are any contractual or collective arrangements, or anything which may have arisen through custom and practice.
- Ensure managers are all aware of the businesses approach to ensure consistency and to deal with issues fairly – can working hours be altered or is home working possible?
- Encourage employees to plan ahead for how they will get into work if their usual method of transport is not available.
- Remember that employees have the right (in emergency situations) to unpaid time off to look after dependants. This may be applicable if a school is closed and parents may not be able to get to work due to unexpected childcare issues.
Winter colds and flu often mean an increase in sickness absence.
- Ensure the sickness reporting procedure is clear and consistent. Who should staff contact and how? What time do they need to call in by? Ensure that return to work interviews are conducted to minimise duvet days.
- Employees should either complete a self-certificate for periods of 7 calendar days or less. For absence of 8 days+ then staff must provide a doctor’s certificate.
There is no statutory right for employees to take paid leave on public holidays, unless this is provided for within their employment contract.
- Employers can specify limits on when workers can take their leave (ie Christmas shutdown) but this needs to be addressed in advance in their contracts or in the Holiday Policy.
- Employers should be aware of the various religious beliefs that employees have.
- If there is no shut down period between Christmas and New Year, ensure that holiday requests are dealt with fairly and consistently.
Overtime and working hours
Unless staff have opted out of the Working Time Regulations, employers are often reliant on the goodwill of staff to work overtime.
- During busy periods it is especially important to keep an eye on hours, and ensure the Working Time Regulations are observed.
- Remember that workers are still entitled to take their daily and weekly rest breaks, even when they do overtime.
The Christmas party is an entire topic in itself and you can read more about it here.
If you’d like to discuss any of the above topics, or if you’re responding to issues arising after the Christmas Party, please don’t hesitate to contact either Nick Jones or Cecily Donoghue in our Employment Team.