Five HR tips for the festive season

After a long year, many of us are thankful when December arrives and the celebrations and festivities can begin. But before you start to wind down, remember that this is one of the most troublesome of times of the year for employee issues – with numerous HR dilemmas to tackle.

So grab a Christmas coffee and have a read of our top tips for managing staff issues this festive season.

The Christmas Party Many companies will choose to treat staff to a Christmas party. Whilst this is often intended as way to thank staff for their contribution and hard work over the year, it can backfire if certain precautions are not taken. To avoid festivities descending into chaos, consider sending out a communication prior to the event about expected staff behaviour. Also remember that any event will need to be inclusive and respectful of varying religious beliefs. For more on how to avoid the staff party turning into a nightmare, view our separate blog on the topic here.

Social Media For a large percentage of employees, social media is likely to be an integral part of a normal night out. From selfies to group photos, pictures of cocktails to videos of the best (or worst!) dance floor moves, it is inevitable that some form of media from the night will make its way online. Whilst the majority of such posts will be completely harmless, it is important to take action should you become aware of any offensive, discriminatory or bullying behaviour on online networking sites. It may be sensible to send out a reminder to all staff of your company’s policy on social media usage prior to any planned parties.

Holidays If your company’s holiday year runs from January to December, it can often be the case that staff find themselves with several holidays left to take during December. In order to maintain adequate staffing levels in December it may become necessary to refuse holiday requests. It is important to remain fair in these circumstances and many companies find that a ‘first come first served’ system is the best way forward. If necessary, you may want to consider allowing staff to carry forward a limited number of days into the next holiday year, but be consistent across all staff members when putting this into action - and remember that only ‘contractual’ holidays can be carried forward from one year to another.

Christmas Bonus Many businesses like to go the extra mile at Christmas time and reward staff with a Christmas bonus. If you are going to go down this route, there are a number of considerations, including whether the gift is made available to all members of staff or just a selected few, and whether the amount will be the same or vary. Be careful how you tread and where possible, remain fair and consistent across the board to avoid the risk of disgruntled staff. Remember that if a bonus at Christmas time has been made for a few years on the run, this could be seen as having become ‘customary’ and therefore it could be argued that a bonus is a staff entitlement.

Absenteeism With all of the festivities and a generally more relaxed approach during the month of December, it could perhaps be tempting for members of staff to take advantage by taking the odd day of unauthorised absence. If you have concerns over the timing of ‘sick days’, do take the time to investigate absence thoroughly before jumping to any conclusions. Always conduct a back to work interview when a member of staff has been off ill and ensure that the company sickness policy is adhered to. Remember that it is also the time of year when illnesses are perhaps most prevalent – so an increase in sickness levels may be genuine. As outlined above, there are many potential HR issues that arise in the run up to Christmas. For more information or to speak to us about a particular HR issue you are facing in your business, please contact us.