Crucial Christmas Considerations for Employers

It's that time of year when as an employer, you are faced with a raft of trials and tribulations. Christmas always tends to throw up all sorts of issues where annual leave, discipline and discrimination are concerned. Here are some of our top tips on what you should be doing in order to deal with these issues effectively, so that your workplace Christmas can be a peaceful one.

Be Clear on Policy

Your seasonal policies should be well documented and managers and supervisors should be familiar with them. Make sure you have policies in place covering everything from annual leave to social events.

It is vital to have policies in place covering social events because as an employer you have a duty of care towards your personnel, plus there's the issue of the Equality Act 2010 that makes you liable when it comes to discrimination, victimisation and harassment. You need to be able to demonstrate that you have taken practicable steps to prevent anything along these lines taking place.

Beware Discrimination

Religious discrimination is something that causes employers a great deal of worry at Christmas. Will your festive party offend those who do not celebrate Christmas? Hopefully not, because staff parties should be focused on morale boosting rather than any sort of religious observation.

It is wise in any case to be mindful of all the religious festivals that fall throughout the year, and ensure you are balanced in your approach.

You may also come across problems with Christian employees refusing to work on bank holidays that have religious significance. Again the Equality Act 2010 applies, which means you cannot treat staff any differently to others because of their religion. Workers do not have a right to time off in order to observe religious occasions, but if you do refuse them, it could constitute religious discrimination. Putting a policy in place is essential.

Know the Rules on Annual Leave

Employees do not have a right to take holidays during the festive period and unless there is an agreement to the contrary, notice equating to twice the length of the holiday they wish to take must be given.

If taking leave is not acceptable to you at this time of year, then you can give counter notice stating that the leave cannot be taken, providing this notice equates to the length of the leave requested, and that you are not stopping the employee taking the leave they are entitled to for that holiday year. On refusing leave that falls within allowable parameters, you must always be able to state valid business reasons.

Bear in mind that actions taken against employees who fail to attend work without permission should be reasonable. There have been cases where employees have been dismissed for this reason, and later the dismissal has been found to be unfair by the Employment Tribunal.

It is also worth noting that unless a contract states otherwise, employees are not entitled to bank holidays off, neither are they entitled to any additional pay when working them.

Confused about Christmas as an employer? Chat your concerns through with your bookkeepers in the first instance and they'll point you in the right direction as to the advice you need to get things right.

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