Christmas in the workplace
Christmas is usually a time of celebration for employees but for employers, particularly for small businesses, the festive season can be a bit of a nightmare. Employees all wanting time off on the same dates, people down with winter related bugs and people off sick for more self-inflicted reasons.
The key for a small businesses, in fact any business, is to have a plan for how you are going to ensure that employees can have their time off without having a negative impact on the business. You’re also going to get more sick days in the run up to Christmas because of the winter period so you need to be able to factor that in as well.
The Christmas season will impact businesses in different ways with some businesses having Christmas as their busiest time of the year whilst others may be a lot quieter and will have longer periods of shut down for the festive holidays. The Christmas period is also the busiest period for holiday requests from your staff, working patterns, travel disruption, demand for seasonal workers, the flu and so on
Christmas bank holidays
Christmas day 2015 falls on a Friday and is obviously a Bank Holiday in the UK. Boxing Day is also a UK bank holiday but falls on a Saturday which means Monday the 28th is now a Bank Holiday. There is no legal requirement to provide payment for bank holidays, moreover the holiday entitlement can be used to cover bank holidays if an employee / employer wishes to do so.
- Thursday 24th December – Normal working day
- Friday 25th December – Bank Holiday
- Monday 28th December – Bank Holiday
- Tuesday 29th December – Normal working day
The statutory minimum that you as an employer are required to provide to your employees is 5.6 weeks of holiday. Paid public holidays can be counted as part of your employees statutory annual leave entitlement,
Annual leave over the Christmas period
A businesses annual leave policy should give clear information as to the businesses process for booking annual leave. A lot of small businesses, even those that have a formal policy, will be quite flexible when it comes to their employees taking appropriate leave. One thing employees should always remember is that, particularly within a small business, you can’t please everyone and there may be occasions where a number of employees want to take the same week off.
Ideally, a small business should look to plan its Christmas holidays with its employees a month or two in advance to ensure a fair and consistent opportunity for all staff.
Some employers, particularly those with huge Christmas demand, may need to restrict annual leave over this period. You must state this upfront, as it will become a part of their contract of employment or implied from custom and practice. Some of the most common forms we see of this is:
• Ring fencing certain dates as days of business closure when employees must take annual leave
• Christmas shut down when annual leave must be taken
• Determine periods when leave cannot be taken
• Determine the number of employees that can take annual leave at the same time
Sickness and absence during the Christmas season
Your sickness policy (usually within your Employee Handbook) still applies during the Christmas season and should be used fairly and consistently with all employees. So if, for example, an employee is sick or absent from work the day after the Christmas party, your sickness policy in your Employee Handbook must still be followed.