Here are ten Christmas HR Questions & Answers that we get asked regularly:
1 – Should Employers prepare for the festive season?
Managers should familiarise themselves with their employer’s policy on Christmas parties or work-related social events. Additionally, employers should consider the option of issuing a statement to employees in advance of a Christmas party or similar work-related event.
This statement can remind employees of conduct matters, including the dangers of excess alcohol consumption, and behaviours that could be viewed as harassment.
2 – Do employers really need a policy on workplace social events?
Yes. Employers should maintain a policy because they have a duty of care towards staff, and as a matter of good practice.
The Equality Act 2010 makes employers liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by their employees in the course of employment, unless they can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent such acts.
3 – Is and employer responsible for what happens at a Christmas or New Year’s eve party?
It is prudent to assume that an employer will be liable. Legislation refers to the term “in the course of employment”.
4 – Can employees be disciplined for misconduct after a Christmas / New Year’s eve party?
Yes, if the incident is sufficiently closely connected to work to have had an impact on the working situation. For further information click here
5 – Is it ok to offer a free bar at a Christmas / New Year’s eve party?
A free bar will undoubtedly be a morale booster for staff, but employers need to be aware of the dangers of providing an unlimited free bar.
6 – 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
7 – 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.
8 – 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.
9 – 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.
10 – What if a Christian employee 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.
If your business needs any Human Resources (HR) support in getting ready for Christmas & the New Year, please contact us now.