The 12 days of c(HR)istmas! 

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, whilst some may be merry and joyful, others may be overwhelmed and underprepared for the trials and tribulations of the holiday season.

Last month we discussed the HR challenges surrounding the work Christmas party; however, a host of Christmas HR-related issues need to be considered during the festive period, from weather conditions to Christmas bonuses.



Welcome to the 12 days of cHRistmas!

  1. Christmas holiday leave

One of the most common challenges for employers is allocating annual leave during the holiday season. Businesses whose holiday allowance is required to be taken by the end of the year often experience a rush of employees trying desperately to fit in their last leave days before they expire.

To avoid being overloaded with leave requests and staffing issues in the busy time of year, track and report on staff leave throughout the year and ensure your employees take their holiday at appropriate times.

You can prepare for 2023 by setting diary tasks to send quarterly reminders to staff of their allocation and when it needs to be taken.  Some companies choose to run their holiday allowance in line with the financial year to lessen the pressure to take annual leave at Christmas or examine the option of adding an HR policy whereby staff are entitled to carry over a certain percentage of holiday days each year.

  1. Hangovers and expectations

An HR headache for employers (and employees!) during the party season are the expectations surrounding hangovers. While it is important for staff morale not to appear to be the ‘Christmas Scrooge‘, it is essential to communicate clear boundaries and reminders of your policy surrounding over-indulging the night before coming to work.

Reminders about the dangers of drunk driving may also be prudent, especially the following day when many may consider they are safe to drive to work. Employees should be clearly advised that coming to work still under the influence from the night before is unacceptable, and disciplinaries will be actioned under these circumstances.

  1. Gifting from clients and when to declare

It’s the time of year to show appreciation for others who provide services for us throughout the year. However, it’s also a great time of year to remind your staff of policies regarding receiving gifts from clients and laws on bribery. Small gifts are acceptable, and many companies set a financial limit for when their staff members need to declare gifts at work; generally, this needs to be reported if a gift exceeds £10.

  1. Employee safety

The weather outside is frightful, and there are many health and safety risks in wet or icy conditions. As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring the safety of your staff while on-site and implementing adequate measures to avoid slip and trip hazards. If there are likely to be icy areas where staff gain access to the building, consider spreading salt crystals, be mindful of access points that could become slippery due to wet footwear or wheelchair users, and ensure all staff are up to date with their health and safety slip and trip hazard training.

Setting clear boundaries around what is expected during adverse weather and travelling to work is a great way to avoid confusion in the event of a white Christmas. Communicate early on whether employees will be entitled to take annual leave if they cannot travel to work or whether a remote working process can be implemented.

  1. Consider those not celebrating

Be mindful that only some of your employees will celebrate Christmas for personal or religious reasons. Be explicit that anyone not wishing to join office festivities is not required to. Consider offering your staff the option of taking their Christmas bank holiday on a more suitable day for their religious celebrations.

  1. Stay safe when decking the halls.

Remain aware of safety risks when decorating the office, and let your staff know about them. There are better methods of getting to those hard-to-reach corners to hang your tinsel than standing on tables or chairs, especially on wheels; provide a dedicated step ladder to avoid accidents in the workplace or make boundaries clear surrounding what areas can be decorated to avoid risk.

  1. Secret Santa

If you decide to set up an office Secret Santa, set clear parameters around expectations. A clear expenditure limit must be established, and a reminder that the gifts must not be inappropriate; what one staff member may find funny, others may find highly offensive.

  1. Christmas bonuses

Do you usually offer a Christmas bonus? The cost of living crisis is a worrying time for us all, and you may find that providing a Christmas bonus this year is not financially viable. If this applies to you, ensure that bonuses are a discretionary clause in your employees’ contracts; if the bonus is contractual, then this must be honoured.

  1. Christmas may not be the most wonderful time of the year for everyone.

Although this time of year is well known for ‘goodwill to all men and peace on earth’, it can be challenging for some. Those who have lost loved ones or are spending the first Christmas apart from children after a family breakdown may suffer, affecting their motivation, productivity at work, and mental health.

Try to be tactful regarding celebrations and make it clear if individuals do not wish to get involved, it is not compulsory. Remind all staff of how they can contact local mental health services if they should require it.

  1. Completing Christmas shopping at work

Reminding staff of your internet usage policy during the gifting season is beneficial; ensuring you don’t lose productivity to online shopping during the working day is essential. Staff members feeling overwhelmed with their never-ending gift list may be tempted to complete their online Christmas shop during work hours, and unfortunately, this is not good for business.

  1. Dress code

In the run-up to Christmas, you may find staff become lax with their dress code; this may generally involve dressing down or dressing up with tinsel and glitter in every outfit. If this is not suitable for your organisation, then a dedicated Christmas dress-up/dress-down day can help combat this. If not, you can remind staff of their responsibilities to turn up to work in the best working attire.

  1. Christmas eve and planned closures

Some companies close early on Christmas eve or at the end of the working year for your particular organisation in honour of festivities; however, this is not a legal requirement. If you have planned closures, these should be announced earlier in the year to allow employees to save the correct amount of holiday to cover the period.

If an employee complains that they do not want to take annual leave, you are legally entitled to enforce that they take a holiday. You must give employees notice that is double the length of the holiday they will be taking, e.g. if they are taking three days, you need to give them at least six days’ notice. However, if they have run out of annual leave for the year, you cannot force them to take unpaid leave or insist they bring forward holiday entitlement from the next holiday year.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more help with Christmas HR during the festive period.