The festive season, while being a time of celebration, can bring with it additional employment issues for businesses. We explore below some of these issues and how they can be avoided to minimise legal risk to your business.
While many will be dreaming of a white Christmas, inclement weather during the festive period can bring with it a range of issues for employers, such as staff being unable to get into the office safely or at all, staff shortages, managing staff working from home and issues around whether to pay staff who are absent. To ensure staff know what is expected of them, employers should have an adverse weather policy in place covering travelling, absence and pay, and alternative working arrangements.
Do you allow staff to use the internet at work for personal use? It may be a good idea to ensure your IT policy confirms the businesses position regarding internet usage, especially around the festive period when staff may wish to do online Christmas shopping. You may take the view that staff can use the internet for personal use during break times, however, do make it clear that use during working hours is prohibited and could result in disciplinary action.
Many employers relax their dress codes during the festive season to allow for Christmas jumpers and casual attire. However, employers should be sensitive to staff who do not celebrate Christmas. Employers should ensure that any relaxation of the dress code for the festive period is optional. Employers may also wish to consider a similar relaxation of the dress code during other religious festivals.
With so many competing holiday requests around the festive period, it can be difficult for employers to choose who can take annual leave during this time. Employers need to be careful that any decisions made regarding holiday allocation are not discriminatory. Some employers find the most equitable approach is to base the decision on who worked over the festive period during the previous year. Whatever approach is taken, employers should make it clear in their annual leave policies to avoid any disputes over the approach taken.
Events organised through work, even where they are not on work premises, are likely to be classed as “in the course of employment” and thus the business may be liable for poor behaviour of staff. Some practical points to consider include:
- Make it clear to staff what is deemed unacceptable behaviour. Common conduct issues include, harassment/sexual harassment claims, aggressive behaviour, confrontations, bullying and risqué jokes. Staff should be reminded of all relevant policies, such as equal opportunities, anti-bullying and harassment, alcohol and substance misuse and the disciplinary rules and procedure.
- Ensure staff know what is expected of them the following day (if it is a working day) regarding lateness and absenteeism.
- Ensure all staff members are invited, including those on family leave or sick leave, to avoid suggestions of discrimination. However, do not pressure staff to attend.
- Avoid conversations with staff about their salary, performance, and promotions during the event to avoid making unintended promises.
- Ensure parties are inclusive as possible by catering for those who do not drink alcohol or eat certain foods.
- Be sensitive towards staff members of different religions who may not celebrate Christmas. Consider referring to the event as a “holiday party” instead and celebrating other religious festivals throughout the year.
- Posts or photos relating to work events that are uploaded to social media can damage business reputation. Ensure staff know what is permissible and the consequences of posting inappropriate content.
These are just some of the issues that can arise during the festive season. If you have any queries or wish to discuss any of the above further, please get in touch with a member of our Employment Team.
Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash