Christmas can be a real headache for business owners. There is a range of HR issues that can be troublesome, from granting holidays to the receipt of gifts and much more in between. In this blog post, we explain some of the issues you may face and provide tips on how to deal with them.

Holidays

Even if you have meticulously planned the Christmas holiday rota, you are bound to have an issue around ¬holidays. Because Christmas and New Year often fall on weekdays, there will always be someone who wants the same day off as somebody else. Plus, most people want to maximise their time off over Christmas by booking holiday between bank holidays. You can’t let everyone take time off, it will cripple your business. No one has the right to a paid holiday without your agreement, but at the same time you must comply with employment law regulations and be sensitive to the fact that Christmas is a family time and your employees will want to spend as much time as possible with family. You must not discriminate between those with families and those without and deal with all holiday requests in a fair and objective manner.

Bonuses

Christmas bonuses are often a controversial issue. Some employees feel it is their right to receive a Christmas bonus and are disappointed or feel unappreciated if they don’t. But unless Christmas bonuses are written into employee contracts you are not obliged to pay them. In these troubled financial times, many businesses do not have the budget for non-contractual bonuses and you should not feel obliged to do pay them, just because you have done in the past. If historically you have paid bonuses, but this year you decide you cannot afford it, that’s perfectly acceptable. But it’s important to be open and honest with your employees as there may naturally be an expectation that a bonus is on its way.

Half Days

Many firms close early on Christmas eve. There is often no need to enforce employees to work a full day as business has ceased trading and employees are no longer motivated to work due to the holiday spirit. Some firms will give employees this extra half day on top of their holiday entitlement as a gesture of goodwill, but if you require them to book this time off using their annual leave you must notify them in advance.

If you are going to let staff go home early, let them know. It can sometimes be de-motivational to leave them hanging.

Planned Shut Downs

Many businesses shut down over the Christmas period and require their employees to use some of their holidays during this period. It must be written into their contracts if this is the case. If an employee doesn’t want to take this time off, but you are planning on shutting the business down, you can legally enforce holiday but must comply with employment law by giving them due notice.

Christmas Gifts

Sometimes suppliers and customers will send Christmas gifts. Have a policy on what is acceptable to ensure you don’t fall foul of bribery rules. You may encourage staff to share gifts between the team but remember that if you do not have a written policy, they are not obliged to do so.

Dress Code

Christmas is a time when most employees like to get in the spirit and you may decide to relax your dress policy by giving them the chance to dress down or even get festive with Christmas jumpers. It is important to respect those who do not celebrate Christmas and ensure any communications around dress acknowledge that it is optional. You may also wish to outline what clothing is deemed unacceptable to ensure it doesn’t go too far. You don’t want to risk causing offence to other employees or risk appearing non-professional to customers.

Christmas Parties

The Christmas party is an issue that requires much more than a paragraph. For a 10 step guide to ensuring your Christmas party goes without a hitch, read our latest blog, The Dos and Don’ts of the Office Christmas Party.

For further advice on dealing with HR concerns during the Christmas period contact us on 0330 555 1139 or by email at hello@crossehr.co.uk.