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Christmas FAQ for Employers

All I want for Christmas is… answers!

Christmas is a jolly time, but it also throws up lots of concerns for employers.

Read our FAQs to obtain some all-important answers to your HR and Employment Law questions.

What do I do if one of my employees turns up to work drunk?

With Christmas dinner and the boozy nights out, it’s easy to have one too many. People often forget that alcohol remains in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours following consumption and that the consumption of a significant amount of alcohol in the evening may leave them unfit to work in the morning.

You will need to refer to your alcohol and drug policy which should be in your Employee Handbook. The policy should clearly state that if an employee reports for work when unfit due to the influence of alcohol, this may be regarded as a gross misconduct offence.

What is the minimum temperature permitted in the workplace?

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that there is a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. The law does not set minimum or maximum working temperatures, but it is recommended that it is a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if employees are undertaking physical work.

We have always paid a Christmas bonus, but this year we have decided we don’t want to. Can we just stop paying it?

If there is a long-standing or established custom or practice to pay a Christmas bonus, it may become an implied term of the employee’s Contract of Employment. This means that although the contract does not expressly say this, it can form part of the contract. This is known as custom and practice.

Speak to an Employment Law Adviser to discuss this further.

I have caught a few of my employees doing some online shopping during working time. How can I deter this behaviour?

You should have a policy in place which deals with internet, phone and email use at work. It should clearly state that excessive personal use during working hours will be treated as misconduct and thereby they could find themselves subject to disciplinary action.

Nobody wants to be disciplined so a reminder of the rules can help them deter them from subsequent attempts to do some shopping whilst at work.

It’s been a really busy time for the business. Can I force my employees to work overtime?

Employees will only be required to work overtime if their Contract of Employment clearly specifies this.

Most of my employees want to have Christmas off. How do I deal with competing leave requests fairly?

If you are dealing with numerous requests, here are some tips:

  • If your organisation is open all year round with no seasonable shutdowns, you could also consider allowing any people to choose between time off at Christmas and summer. So if someone does not get the time off they requested at Christmas, they could be given priority when they are booking leave for their summer holiday.
  • In your workplace rules, you can impose limits on how many consecutive days of leave an employee may take at one time. This stops you being without valuable members for extended periods of time.
  • Encourage collaboration. For employees who are parents, they will be particularly keen to have time off during half terms and the long summer break; therefore you should encourage teams to collaborate with each other to coordinate leave. This will ensure operational requirements are met and issues are quickly resolved.
  • Periodically review whether employees have taken leave. If they have a lot of leave still to take, remind them of how much leave they still have to take before the holiday year ends.
  • Be fair and consistent in the way you allocate the requests.
Do you have a specific question?

Our Employment Law Advisers are HR experts who can help you keep headaches, hangovers and trouble away this Christmas. Contact us to find out how we can support you.

Source: bira approved service partner, Ellis Whittam

To discuss this topic further or to get advice on other areas, contact bira legal on 0345 450 0937, email bira@elliswhittam.com or visit the webpage.