The festive season is fast approaching and although Christmas this year is likely to be different, with employees not necessarily all back to work in the normal way, there are still plenty of things for employers to consider.
Here are a number of areas employers will need to plan for.
Whilst the normal Christmas party is off the table this year, many employers will want to consider alternative ways they may be able to celebrate the festive season and provide the opportunity for some much-needed cheer. Virtual events are one option, with staff being asked to participate via video call in an organised event, perhaps with a meal or drinks being sent out by post.
Other employers may have decided to delay until a time in the New Year where it may be possible to get together in teams or larger groups in a more ‘normal’ way.
Either way, employers that normally offer a Christmas party and are in a financial position to be able to do so should think carefully about how they can best show their appreciation for staff. The Christmas party is often one of the only points in the year where staff can all get together, and therefore can go a long way to building morale. It has been a tough year for everyone and finding a way for teams to join together could be the close to the year that everyone needs.
2020 has been a tough year financially for many businesses. However, for those that have been able to weather the storm, Christmas gifts are a way to show gratitude to staff for all their hard work. Whether in the form of a physical gift or a financial one, businesses will need to carefully consider their approach. Although made with the best intentions, Christmas gifts, particularly if given in the form of a bonus, can be seen as ‘customary’ and therefore an expected part of an employee’s annual package if given on an annual basis.
Furthermore, the landscape may be a little tricky for businesses that placed some staff on furlough whilst others have continued to work through. Although some members of staff have gone above and beyond to support the business in these difficult times, and it may be tempting to show extra appreciation to these staff, employers will need to tread carefully, not being seen to treat some members of staff more favourably than others, which could be seen as discriminatory.
Annual leave entitlement
With holiday options being so limited this year, it is unlikely that the majority of staff will have used their full annual leave entitlement. Although employers should still have encouraged workers to take leave, this may not have been possible in all circumstances. To assist with this, the government introduced a new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years.
Businesses may, however, have their own policy in place regarding the carrying over of untaken leave. In any event, employers would be well-placed to remind employees of these rules and if they are to make any special dispensation for this year. This allows for clarity and ensures staff are aware of their own position regarding their annual leave entitlement for 2021.
The run up to Christmas is often a time where employers struggle with staff absenteeism – sometimes due to employees over-indulging in the festivities. Whilst this year may be a bit different; it doesn’t mean that unauthorised absence won’t be an issue. For some employers who still have the majority of their staff working from home, monitoring and managing an unauthorised absence may actually have been more difficult this year.
Despite the physical distance, back to work interviews following a member of staff being off ill should still be adhered to, as should any other elements of your sickness policy.
If you have concerns over the timing of ‘sick days’, investigations should be conducted thoroughly before any action is taken. Being sure to adopt a sensible approach, retaining fairness and ensuring consistency across all employees is also important.
Although the festivities will be different at home this year, businesses will still want to consider how best to proceed with giving time off over Christmas. In theory, it should be no different to any other year and arguably, employees (and employers themselves) many feel deserving of a longer break!
Businesses in the retail, beauty and hospitality industries that have lost revenue due to lockdowns and periods of enforced closure, may feel the need to make up for some lost ground and open for more days over Christmas than they normally would. Although staff are likely to understand the situation, being sure to communicate well and provide plenty of notice should help to keep employees on side and willing to help. Again, maintaining fairness and consistency across all employees is important to avoid any accusations of unfair treatment or discrimination.
This year has been tough for many employers to manage and having the guidance of an employment law solicitor has provided many businesses with reassurance to make decisions and move forward swiftly and proactively.
For advice on any employment law issue relating to Christmas or planning ahead for 2021, please contact us on 01457 761 320 or e-mail Richard Dobson Mason on email@example.com.