Seasonal tips for a joyful and triumphant festive period

Getting into the Christmas spirit at work is often a great morale booster and the opportunity for staff to mix socially and let their hair down can be a great team-building exercise in itself. This festive time of year, however, does bring with it certain challenges that employees need to be mindful of.

  1. Office Decorations – Putting up the tinsel and fairy lights is a great way to get the office into the festive mood, but watch out for wobbly ladders and crazy mazes of electrical wires that can cause a significant health & safety risk. A trained and responsible person should take charge of matters and other employees discouraged from putting up their own decorations.
  2. Secret Santa – The giving and receiving of office gifts anonymously is very popular these days amongst staff and can be a great source of hilarity. But inappropriate gifts can cause offence and possibly lead to disciplinary action. You should ensure that your equal opportunities, bullying and harassment policies are up to date and communicated to staff.
  3. The Christmas Party – Make sure you have a clear policy on expected behaviour during work functions and ensure your staff are aware of it. You have a duty of care to your staff and don’t want to be caught out by claims of sexual discrimination or harassment should any of your employees take things too far.
  4. The Day After – Unless you have specifically stated otherwise, your employees should be expected to attend work as normal the following day. They should also be in a fit condition to work. Ensure all staff are aware of your alcohol and drug use policy and understand that disciplinary action may be taken if they fail to attend work due to a hangover or if they return back to the office intoxicated after a party.
  5. Annual Leave – Most people will want to take time off over the Christmas period, but it should be clear that leave will not necessarily be granted. Requests for holidays should be put in early and it’s a good idea to have a clear policy of how many people in a specific team may be granted leave at the same time.
  6. Unauthorised Absence – You may find the odd rogue employee who hasn’t been granted leave deciding to take matters into their own hands and take unauthorised absence perhaps to do a bit of last-minute Christmas shopping. Make sure you have an absence policy in place and a proper reporting procedure should anyone go AWOL.
  7. Adverse Weather – It is important that staff know where they stand during adverse weather in terms of how they should report in and what their pay arrangements will be during this time. Providing the option of taking extra leave, or where possible working remotely, can be a great morale booster for staff.
  8. Office Closures – If you close down for any part of the Christmas period, your staff contracts or handbooks should make it clear how much of their annual leave has to be used during this time and ensure that they keep enough back during the year to cover it.
  9. A Gesture of Good Will – If you normally run your payroll at the end of the month, consider paying your employees before Christmas as a gesture of goodwill. Make it clear however that any arrangements are at your discretion and are not a contractual right.
  10. Be Inclusive – Remember that not everyone will observe this religious festival and others may not be in a position to celebrate. Keep things reasonably low-key during working hours and save the real celebrations for party time.

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