All I want for Christmas is for everything to run smoothly at work

10th December 2018

The Christmas period offers lots of lovely things, but also a significant amount of stress for anyone who works in HR. Day-to-day routines are often replaced with holiday-specific traditions and customs which, although fun, can present some issues if policies are not in place and expectations are not managed.

  1. Dress code (It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jumpers)

Many businesses are comfortable relaxing the dress code slightly at this time of year to bring an atmosphere of relaxedness and joviality into the working environment. It’s important that if you want to do this that you set clear boundaries of what is and is not acceptable work attire. For example, you may be happy for staff to wear jeans, but may feel that ripped denim is inappropriate. It’s crucial that you state these rules implicitly so that everyone knows where they stand. This is particularly important if you are client-facing. You may also want to encourage people to don their most gloriously tacky Christmas jumpers, either just for fun or for a charity event. Be mindful that not everyone celebrates Christmas and that not everyone will want to take part.

  1. Overtime (I’m Driving Home for Christmas – as soon as I’ve sent these last few emails)

If your office is closed over Christmas there may be extra pressure to get things done in the run up to the festivities, resulting in staff working overtime. Two things are important here – the first is that staff know if they will receive pay for their extra hours and the second is that you as their employer know the laws surrounding this. In some companies overtime is expected and not paid for, as detailed in the employment contract. In others, overtime pay can be the same or even more than the usual hourly rate. Make sure every party involved is clear on this to avoid upset and disputes.

  1. Weather (Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it…it will probably just rain)

Much of the country won’t even dare to dream of a white Christmas, but you never know! If there’s going to be adverse weather conditions that impact on your employees’ attendance then it’s most likely going to be over the next couple of months. You can’t control the weather, but you can have a flexible working policy in place which allows your employees to work from home if there are issues on the roads or public transport systems. Ensure that everyone is familiar with the expectations upon them during these circumstances, and that they know how and when to report that they will be working flexibly.

  1. Christmas party (Rockin’ Around the Photocopier)

The annual work Christmas do is sadly not as simple as hiring a venue and inviting all the staff for a good old knees up. There is much to consider to ensure that it runs smoothly, safely and that no one does anything that they may later regret, or worse…puts their job in jeopardy over. It is wise to communicate to staff prior to the event what the behaviour expectations are and also what is acceptable in terms of attendance at work; whether people may leave early to get ready before the party takes place, and if they are allowed to start late the morning after. We all know that alcohol can be a big problem at Christmas parties, but did you know that you, as the employer, can be held  vicariously liable for the misconduct of individuals at a work party? It may therefore be a good idea to reinforce you company’s code of conduct prior to the event, ensuring that everyone knows the bullying/harassment policy like the back of their hand. Don’t forget to refer to your social media policy too (if you don’t have one then this might be the time to implement one!) as who knows what sort of antics could end up plastered over the Internet the morning after!

  1. Gifts (Fairytale of New Socks)

At Christmas, customers and clients may present gifts to your company, either addressed to you as a collective whole or to individual staff members whom they may have worked with particularly closely. You should ensure that staff know what they can and can’t keep for themselves. For example, you may be happy for them to keep low-value gifts such as chocolates or flowers, but there may be a policy in place should they receive something more expensive. It’s also important to remember that it is illegal to give or accept bribes, so make sure that everyone knows if there is any ambiguity about the intention or purpose behind a gift that they must let their manager know.

  1. Illness (Have Yourself a Merry Little Trip to the Pharmacy)

It’s that time of year when everyone and their cat seems to have the lurgy. During these months this can have a huge impact on the company, therefore it’s vital that the protocol around absenteeism is efficient and well-known by everyone. Ensure that staff know when and how they are expected to let their manager know of their illness – it may be as soon as they feel unwell, even if that is at 3am, or you may prefer that they call in on the morning of the absence. Would you rather they made a phone call to tell you, or is text or email equally acceptable? Must they let you know at the start of each day they are off, or are you happy for them to just get in touch on the first and last days of their illness? Importantly, you must also make sure that staff know how sick pay works, such as if they are entitled to it during their probationary period, or indeed, at all. Illness is another good reason to exercise a flexible working policy – if someone has a bad cold you may prefer they stay away from their colleagues to avoid contaminating them, but they may be physically well enough to get on with their work from home.

  1. Bank holidays (It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year when I don’t have to get up for work)

In the UK, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are bank holidays. Employees’ right to time off is variable based on their employment contact, which is often dependent on their industry – for example, retail workers will most likely not have the right to have the day off work, whereas office workers are more likely to. Similarly, no one has a right to higher than normal pay if they work on a bank holiday, buy many companies do choose to offer time and a third, time and a half or even double pay if people work on these days. Lastly, it’s down to you as the employer to dictate in the employment contract whether these days must come out of the staff’s annual leave or not. It’s vital that you are on top of all these elements and how they relate to and impact upon your company to ensure that all staff are well-informed with what their schedule and paycheque will look during this period.

It’s a complicated time, isn’t it? Luckily there are many HR systems and services that can help you throughout this period. Trusted solutions such as IRIS FMP Amity allow you to manage your HR and payroll effortlessly with the help of fully-compliant experts. Take the worry and stress out of the festive season and enjoy it as much as possible!