What holiday entitlement do my part-time staff get over Christmas?

The run up to Christmas is an extremely busy time for everyone but it is especially hectic for HR staff in a business. If there's any time of year that is going to bring every type of HR issue to your door, it's Christmas!

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

In the first course of our Christmas series, we looked at the staff Christmas party. For the main course, it’s time to consider holiday requests and Bank Holidays.

With three Bank holidays over the Christmas period, along with the closure of workplaces up and down the country over the Christmas break, calculating the time off allowable to each member of staff can be headache for employers.

Whether or not you make allowance for the Bank Holidays in your contracts of employment is the first place to start. If your contracts state that employees are entitled to a set number of days’ paid holiday per year plus Bank Holidays you will need to make the necessary allowance of the relevant days off for all members of staff. This of course includes any shift and part time workers you may employ. The difficulty is that part time staff, who are entitled to the same number of Bank Holidays as full time staff on a pro rata basis, might not ordinarily work on the days the Bank Holidays fall and therefore, knowing where you stand can be difficult to interpret. If part time staff work set days per week, it is somewhat clearer. But where staff work variable days or different hours, it can become tricky.

Each part time member of staff should be looked at individually and, if in doubt, seek professional assistance on calculating entitlement. What is important to keep in mind is that a fair approach to all employees is maintained, no matter what hours they work. Remember, you should not inadvertently discriminate against, or in favour of, an employee who works part-time.

The other dilemma employers are faced with at this time of year is competing requests for time off. Depending on the makeup of your workforce, staff may want to take the period between Christmas and New Year as annual leave to spend time with families or friends. This scenario can cause great difficulties for employers, as staff often want the same days off. The retail and hospitality industries in particular struggle with this as December is often one of their busiest periods and a certain minimum level of staffing is required in order to maintain normal operations.

The starting point here is that no one has the right to paid holiday without your agreement. Nobody wants it to come to this but, on occasion, it can be worth reminding your employees of this fact. There are a couple of things to consider when choosing between two or more members of staff who have competing holiday requests. The first is discrimination – you need to ensure fairness across your workforce and that no-one is required to work or shown favourable treatment on the grounds of race, sex, or whether they work full or part time hours. The other consideration is staff relations – you really want to keep a harmonious workforce and avoid any ill-feeling toward staff members that are perhaps seen to be treated more favourably.

One of the fairest ways to decide is to look at who worked last year and give them ‘first choice’ for time off this year. This doesn’t work where new members of staff are concerned, however. Another way to operate is on a first come first served basis – with those that get their requests in earliest being granted the time off over others.

Bear in mind that we live and work in a multi-cultural society and you may have employees who are happy to work during the Christmas period in favour of being able to take time off at other times of the year in order to celebrate other religious festivals.

Where staff are required to work, it is nice to provide the odd treat, such as festive food, or perhaps organise a fun event to take place after the Christmas period. Consider options without religious connotation so no-one is excluded by it. Whilst we all expect our staff to fulfil their duties properly at all times, maintaining morale is important – having grumpy staff, who quite obviously don’t want to be there, could leave customers with a bitter taste and damage the company’s reputation. For assistance in organising your staff time off over the Christmas period, please get in touch with us for advice. Next time in our HR Christmas Feast, we turn to dessert – and discuss how to reward staff.