Christmas in the Workplace and Your Company Policies
With the festive season fast approaching, Employers will be anxiously anticipating the inevitable effects of Christmas in the workplace.
Now is the time to assess your company policies and make sure they are watertight and those responsible for administering them are familiar with the details.
There are many issues that can arise during the Christmas period. The below issues are probably the most common.
1. Sickness absence
Is a hangover an “illness”? – Possibly.
In a recent German case, the Court controversially classed a hangover as an illness. This needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the case was a) decided based on a different legal system; and b) in the context of advertising regulations in food supplements – so not UK employment law. However, looking at the fundamental principles of the employment relationship; if, contractually, an employee is entitled to receive sick pay when they are “incapacitated” and unable to perform their contractual duties, then it doesn’t matter why they are incapacitated. So, in theory a hangover could be classed as sickness if the scope of this is not limited in an employer’s contractual documentation and policies.
2. Holiday requests
Conflicting holiday requests can happen at any time in the year but often conflicts are more difficult to manage where the request is for time off over the Christmas period. Employers should decide early on in the year whether there are going to be any dates over Christmas where they shut down the business. If you do elect to impose a shut down period, will this time be compulsory holiday or will employees be gifted this time off?
Clear policies on how holiday requests are dealt with are vital to ensure an understanding of the process from both employees and managers who approve holiday requests. Having a fair way of selecting those who will or will not be granted their leave is paramount, so as to avoid ill feeling and conflict.
3. Vicarious liability
There are many cases concerning an employer’s liability for the actions of its employees. Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK Limited demonstrates the potential for serious consequences when a work party gets out of hand. Employers should be mindful of the risks of allowing employees to get inebriated and the provision of a “free bar” should be considered carefully with this in mind. Managers do have a responsibility to some extent of “setting the tone” and they should be appropriately briefed.
We would love to hear from you with any issues that you come across in the lead up to Christmas or strategies that you have tried and tested in previous years.