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Employer’s guide to navigating HR issues that arise during the festive period

We hope that our 12 tips will help you navigate the festive period.

  1. Inclusive Christmas parties- make sure that everyone is included. Do not assume that just because a colleague does not celebrate Christmas then they should not be invited. Do not forget about absent employees, such as those on maternity leave or on long term sick leave, subject to the arrangements you have in place with such employees, and of course any reasonably adjustments that may be required.
  2. Christmas Party dress code- Implementing a dress code policy for a work Christmas party can help ensure that employees present a professional appearance and avoid any inappropriate attire and potentially inappropriate behaviour. If implementing a dress code it is important that it is clearly communicated to employees in advance so that everyone knows what is expected of them. The dress code should also take into account the venue and type of event, as well as any cultural or religious considerations.
  3. Christmas party etiquette- Employers can be vicariously liable for bad behaviours at Christmas parties, as an event organised through the workplace is likely to be considered an extension of the workplace. It is important to remind staff that it is a work event and of the behaviours that are expected. Prevention is better than cure!
  4. Employee Social Media Policies- remind employees of social media policies — an ill-judged photo of Christmas party shenanigans on Facebook or LinkedIn could damage an employer’s reputation.
  5. Repercussions following the Christmas party- don’t dismiss complaints made about behaviours as drunken antics or banter. Is it a grievance that requires investigating? If there has been a misconduct issue at a social event, it is important to take prompt action. If more than one employee was involved in the incident, listen to both sides and treat all parties fairly.
  6. Suspensions and exclusions- are not a neutral act, so make sure that any decision to suspend or exclude an employee is a not a knee-jerk reaction and an initial fact finding investigation is undertaken first. Also consider alternatives to suspension for example working from home or working in a different team whilst the investigation is on going.
  7. Annual Leave at Christmas- make sure annual leave over the festive period is allocated fairly to avoid resentment and disputes. Don’t make assumptions about whether some employees will be more willing to work over Christmas than others.
  8. Holiday pay calculations- following the recent Supreme Court decision in Harpur v Brazel, and now the conclusion of the government’s consultation the Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 (the Regulations) will come into force on 1 January 2024 and will be welcome news for employers. The Regulations seek to address the Government’s response to consultation and will seek to simplifying annual leave and holiday pay calculations in the Working Time Regulations. It is an important time to review contracts of employment and holiday policies.
  9. Managing sickness absence- some employers face a rise in sickness absence over Christmas – which may or may not be genuine. Don’t jump to conclusions (even if the employee has form) but if you can evidence that the sickness absence is not genuine, you may be able to deal with it as a disciplinary issue. Otherwise, make sure you follow your sickness absence policy.
  10. Whistleblowing- be alert to any concerns that are raised that could be deemed to be whistleblowing, particularly if staff are struggling with workloads. The number of claims from employees who have been subjected to a detriment arising from whistleblowing disclosures are on the increase and the pay-outs if successful are significant. It is important to ensure that concerns raised by employees are taken seriously and investigated.
  11. Consideration of employees’ mental health at Christmas- Christmas can be a stressful and anxious time for a variety of work and personal reasons and many people are struggling with the cost of living crisis. Consider reminding employees of any support you have in place, such as employee counselling services.
  12. And finally, wishing you a wonderful festive season and thank you for all of your support this year. We look forward to working with you in 2024.

For further guidance on any employment law or HR issues, contact our employment solicitors.