Christmas in the Workplace: A How to Guide

Christmas in the Workplace: A How to Guide

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.

How to safely terminate employment

How to safely terminate employment

Taking the decision to dismiss an employee can be a stressful one. How do you make sure you have a legitimate case? What’s the correct way to dismiss them to avoid being landed with an employment tribunal hearing? In this week’s blog we aim to shed some light on the factors you need to consider and will also explain the correct procedure to dismiss an employee safely.

What is dismissal?

Firstly, let’s look at the term dismissal. Dismissal is when you end an employee’s contract. There are many different kinds of dismissal including:

• Fair: You have a valid reason for dismissing someone such as redundancy, they committed gross misconduct, they are incapable of, or something prevents them legally being able to, do their job, e.g. they have lost their driving licence.
• Unfair: An employee can claim unfair dismissal and take you to an employment tribunal if they think the reason was unfair, you acted unreasonably or the reason you gave for dismissal wasn’t the real one. There are many reasons that are automatically deemed unfair: these include any discrimination over age, gender or race, pregnancy, acting as a trade union representative, joining or not joining a trade union and many more. You can find out more about unfair dismissal here
• Constructive: When an employee resigns because you’ve breached their employment contract. This could be because you cut their wages without agreement, unfairly increase workload, make them work in dangerous conditions for example.
• Wrongful: Wrongful dismissal is when you break the terms of an employee’s contract during the dismissal process. For example, dismissing someone without giving them propert notice.

What’s the difference between fair and unfair dismissal?

The difference between a fair and unfair dismissal rests entirely on two points; the reason for dismissal and how you act during the dismissal process. You must act ‘fairly’ and ‘reasonably’ and the law has very specific ways of defining these terms. To dismiss fairly you need a ‘fair’ reason such as conduct, behaviour, capability redundancy, breach of statutory restriction or some other substantial reason, such as a restructure. Even if you dismiss via a fair procedure, if the reason isn’t ‘fair’ then the dismissal will be deemed unfair.

If your reason is fair, you must then act ‘reasonably’ before dismissing someone. This means you must investigate properly, consider alternatives and be consistent with how you have treated other employees. If you are dismissing an employee because of misconduct, you must conduct a thorough investigation before holding a disciplinary hearing and ensure they have the right to appeal your decision.

How to stay safe

Dismissing an employee should be considered as a last resort. You should consider all possible alternatives before taking the decision to terminate. These alternatives will differ based on the particular issue you have with the employee. For example, if you are considering dismissing because of ill health, you should consider how you could get the employee back to work. You may need to consult their doctor, arrange an occupational health assessment or make adjustment to their role/work space if they are suffering from a disability. If on the other hand performance is the issue, then the employee must be warned about their short comings and given the time and support to improve.

If you make sure you act fairly and reasonably at all stages of the process, and have a legitimate reason for termination you should be safe from the penalties you may be concerned about from an employment tribunal. The Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) code of practice has set out clear advice to business owners on how to dismiss someone properly. You can download the full code of practice here.

The implications of getting it wrong

If you are taken to an employment or industrial tribunal for unfair or wrongful dismissal the penalties could be considerable. You may be ordered to reinstate the employee into their previous position or ‘re-engage’ them, (re-employ them in a different job). You may have to pay compensation which varies depending on the employees age, gross weekly pay and length of service. The compensation a tribunal can award is limited unless you are penalised for unfair dismissal in cases relating to health and safety or whistle blowing. In these cases, compensation can be particularly severe.

If you are considering terminating and employees contract be sure to obtain professional advice to ensure you are working to the correct procedures. The team at Crosse HR are here to help whether you are looking for advice or a professional intermediary to ensure you get the resolution you desire whilst staying on the right side of the law.

References

http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1650
https://www.gov.uk/dismiss-staff/overview

Express yourself!

Express yourself!

I had drafted this post yesterday and lo and behold I was having a conversation with someone who asked me this very thing, so I had to post on it.

Everyone is unique and entitled to express their individuality. Right?

Well you would be mistaken, especially when it comes to work. I often get asked from exasperated employers what to do about an employee who is coming in showing their rather colourful, dis/tasteful tattoos, body piercings/maimings, (there appears to be a rise in people willingly putting giant holes in their ear lobes), looking dirty, scruffy, unkempt, too much cleavage, legs etc and the employee refusing to do anything about it on the grounds of their rights and their right to express their individuality. woman_suit

Its an easy one to answer really, not to put too fine a point on it, if you are an employer and employing someone to do a job, you are entitled to insist employees are clean, hide or remove all visible piercings, body art, cover up and come to work in clothes that show respect for themselves and their colleagues and reflect the culture of the organisation. Usually an embarrassing conversation about smartening or covering up and a gentle reminder that the workplace is not the set of  TOWIE, a night club or a body art convention suffices. Tell them to cover up, clean up and dress appropriately end of.

I came across an organisation recently who expressly told their prospective candidates NOT to wear a suit to the interview. Thats fine, now everyone knows you can show up there dressed casually and no-one will bat an eyelid. If you don’t mind tattoos and jeans, then thats fine too, no point in turning up there in a suit.

Conversely I’ve come across an individual who worked in a corporate environment, suits and smart dress all around, who insisted on wearing scruffy t-shirts and jeans, and refusing to wear shoes, preferring instead to walk around in their socks. It took some persuading and then threats to get them to raise their sartorial game, but the end result is that individual literally torched their own long term career prospects full stop.

Bottom line is – your organisation – your rules and if an individual wishes to express their individualism and you would prefer they not do it in work time, then they do so outside of work hours or outside of your organisation. Work, unless you want to create that environment is not the place to experiment with an alternative look.

Make the rules and your dress standards clear from the beginning, at the interview stage even. If you want a rule followed then set the rules in advance. A good code of conduct always helps, a mention of dress codes in the contract and staff handbook and a brief paragraph in any Induction manual usually does the trick. No need to have the 80 page dress code manual some organisations have where even the denier of tights is insisted upon. Then if all else fails……………………..

Social media at work

Social media at work

‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt’ Abraham Lincoln

Wise words indeed. We’ve all heard the organisation mottos and slogans only to roll our eyes and work on. I once worked for an organisation who as part of their social media at work strategy actively encouraged staff to ‘go digital’ and use all forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs to promote the organisation etc only to then attempt to dismiss staff for doing just that on the grounds of security and reputation. No one senior gave a thought to the fact that yes people do say where they work on FB and then post pictures of themselves on social media on their nights out and their views on elections etc and not necessarily of them flower arranging, doing good works or attending gallery openings…..…………..

Thankfully good sense prevailed in the end and no-one came a cropper as a result of the social media at work strategy but it did mark the beginning of the end of the social media strategy, which it should never have promoted in the first place, but not before an awful lot of goodwill, trust and morale was destroyed in the process. If organisations can’t match the slogan to their actions and if the proposition doesn’t match the words then you really should do something about it, so you don’t appear a fool at best or disingenuous at worst. Or at the very least have a well thought out social media policy or have it included in your code of conduct with the do’s and don’ts of posting on your personal account, Crosse HR can easily draft a social media policy or code of conduct for you.

How many organisations are falling short of the excellent staff they employ, how many let them down time and time again, by saying one thing and doing the complete opposite, like my social media example? How many then are surprised when these excellent people move on and take their talent and ethics to somewhere more deserving.? Where is that person (and it should be HR) that says if you don’t do what you say on the tin then don’t say anything at all?

Makes you think doesn’t it, Abraham was onto something when social media wasn’t even heard of!

We’re all going on a Summer holiday … see you on facebook

We’re all going on a Summer holiday … see you on facebook

They have gone off on holiday, you are seeing the facebook and Instagram pictures and smiling silently to yourself, delighted they are all having a great time. Then, horror of horrors, you see them up to something that is either a feat of humankind or jail-able or worse …

We all heard about that girl in Magaluf last year!

Then even worse, you realise that your organisation or workplace is mentioned in their profile. All of a sudden you are now associated with it.

Damage limitation with a social media policy

Well like everything it does depend on what is happening, what the incident is, the type of company you are and the role they do. However, having a robust social media policy and a clear code of conduct that everyone knows about should help. Whatever you include in your social media policy, make sure these 3 bases are covered:

  1. Personal profiles on facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc should not detail where an employee works and what they do
  2. Staff should be asked to use the highest privacy settings possible on their profiles
  3. Covering your back for when they’re on holiday’s fine, but make sure you put a limit on social media used at work too – it can waste precious time while you’re paying the bill

Notwithstanding number 2, as everyone knows nothing is private any more, so not posting anything is probably the best policy but hey … so get in touch if you need help to draft your social media policy.