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Our Annual Christmas Blog 2

Published in Employment Law

Five More Christmas HR Challenges

Christmas should be a time to relax. Many HR problems during the festive season are avoidable – employers simply need to be prepared.

Last week we discussed five festive HR challenges. Here are five more tips to help ensure that everyone has a truly happy workplace over Christmas…

  1. Do Christmas festivities discriminate against those of other religions?

It is unlikely that holding a Christmas party would in itself be seen as religious discrimination because generally these parties are more about having a staff get-together and boosting morale than celebrating religion.

Employers should keep a policy on religious observance during working hours and be supportive towards employees whose religious festivals fall at different times of the year.

  1. Can an employee insist on taking holidays during the Christmas period?

No. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, workers must give notice equal to twice the length of the holiday that they wish to take.

The employer can then give counter notice requiring that the leave not be taken, so long as this counter notice is equivalent to the length of the holiday requested, and the worker is not prevented from taking the leave to which he or she is entitled in that holiday year.

Where an employee has accrued untaken leave and gives reasonable notice to the employer to take the leave, the employer must have valid business reasons for refusing the employee’s request to take leave.

Where an employee insists on taking leave and does so without approval, the employer should approach the issue sensibly and be careful not to impose a disproportionate penalty on the employee.

  1. What if an employee comes to work late or not at all the day after the Christmas party?

An employer can make deductions from employees’ pay if they turn up for work late the morning after the company Christmas party as long as the right to make deductions from wages for unauthorised absence is reserved in the employment contract.

If disciplinary action is to be taken for lateness or non-attendance after the Christmas party, employers should ensure that staff are informed that this is a possibility in the disciplinary policy.

Where an employee does not attend due to illness, the employer should follow its attendance management policy and procedures.

  1. Can employers compel their employees to work bank holidays?

There is no statutory right to time off during bank holidays. This depends on the contractual arrangements regarding bank holiday working.

Further, there is no statutory requirement to pay staff extra for bank holiday working, but employers should observe contractual terms or custom and practice regarding pay rates.

  1. What if a Christian employees refuses to work on Christmas bank holidays?

Employers should be aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, which protects workers against direct and indirect discrimination because of their religion.

While employees do not have the explicit right to time off for religious observance, a refusal to grant Christian employees time off for any of the bank holidays with religious significance could amount to indirect religious discrimination.

Employers that do not already have a policy on religious holidays should consider introducing one