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Eight common Christmas employment dilemmas

7.12.2011

Christmas can sometimes be a challenging time in the workplace. Here the Gullands Employment team answers some common questions that it is asked at this time of the year.   

Can staff be asked to take annual leave when a business is closed over Christmas?

The best way to deal with this is to have a clause in your employee’s contract setting out the firm’s position. If the practice is an annual shutdown then holiday will be easily adjustable. If it is a more flexible arrangement then make sure the employees are given as much notice as possible so they have kept part of their entitlement for this period.

If bad weather travelling difficulties make it really difficult to get in to the office can employees expect to be allowed to take days off without it being deducted from their annual holiday?

This will depend on the individual’s employment contract and any policies that you have in place dealing with adverse weather. Generally, if an employee does not attend work you can require them to take a day’s unpaid leave or a day’s holiday. However you decide to handle bad weather days, any policy must be applied consistently to all staff.

Can I prevent my employees from doing their Christmas shopping online whilst at work?

Do you have a policy in the staff handbook dealing with this and what boundaries does it set? Any breaches are usually dealt with under your disciplinary policy.

How do I stand as a manager if a member of staff takes days off sick when I know they have indulged in a few too many nights out and I suspect they are not genuinely ill?

The situation needs to be handled with care, if the employee is genuinely ill, then you must be careful not to subject them to any unfavourable treatment as a result. I would suggest in the first instance an informal chat with the employee in question to find out some more information. Ultimately, if the situation is serious enough, for example if the individual is a repeat offender or admits you are right in your suspicions then any unauthorized absences should be dealt with in the normal way through your disciplinary policy.

Am I obliged to work on Christmas day if asked to by my employer and can I expect to be paid handsomely for doing so?

What does your contract say and what has been the practice over the past years? Technically there is no automatic right to enhanced pay although employers who require people to work on weekends and bank holidays often make provision.

Can I be sacked if I get drunk on alcohol supplied by my boss at the office Christmas lunch and tell people a few home truths?

The issue of who supplied the alcohol isn’t really relevant to this scenario. The answer is probably not if it is your first misdemeanour, although you may be disciplined. If you are already on a final warning for other offences it could be sufficient to warrant dismissal.

My business often takes on temporary staff at Christmas to cope with demand. Is it within the law for me to pay them less and ask them to work longer hours than my permanent employees?

In short yes, although you should have regard to the Minimum Wage. The Agency Worker Regulations do give temporary staff some rights from day one but the right to equality of working conditions and terms is only achieved after 12 qualifying weeks of work.

Is it alright for staff to post Christmas party photos on Facebook?

Have you told staff what your policy on this is? Do this before the party if you have objections and then you will be able to discipline any offenders.

For more information and advice on employment law please contact Amanda Finn at Gullands by email: [email protected]

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