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The Top 5 most common problems in the workplace over Christmas - and how to manage them

#1 Office Closure & Employee Holidays

If you are planning to shut down for a short period over the festive season, then you need to be clear if you expect your employees to take these days out of their holiday entitlement – enough notice must be given so they can plan ahead and save enough days for the Christmas closure.

If an employee pushes back and tells you that they do not want to take the days off you can legally enforce holiday, you just need to give your employees notice that is double the length of the holiday they will be taking - for example if the office is closing for 2 days, then you would need to give your workers at least 4 days’ notice.

However, if your holidays run on the calendar year and they do not have any holiday allocation left you cannot force them to take unpaid leave or to bring forward holiday entitlement from the next year.

It is also important to be clear on your company’s stance on untaken holiday in advance of the end of the year – your policies should clearly state whether days can be carried over or if any remaining entitlement will be lost.

Another area requiring clarity is Christmas Eve - many companies do close early, but you need to be clear in advance to your employees what the expected business hours are i.e. whether they need to book a whole or half day off if they want the day as a holiday.

#2 Poor Attendance

If you suspect an employee is taking unauthorised absences, to recover from a festive night out or to finish off their Christmas shopping for example, this cannot be ignored.

You should always conduct return to work interviews after every absence - if people know they will have a face to face meeting with their manager or HR when they return, they might think twice about taking a ‘sickie’.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the meeting i.e. the reasons for being absent are vague or inadequate, you can ask for medical evidence then follow the set process within your business’s sickness absence policy – which could result in formal action being taken.

If employees are aware that unauthorised absences during the festive period will be followed up, this may reduce the occurrence. But, as always, be mindful if the absence is due to disability or pregnancy.

#3 The Office Party

The office party can be a big problem for companies – some 90% of employers having experienced an issue arising from a Christmas party and 10% of employees know someone who has been disciplined or dismissed for an incident connected to a Christmas party.

Employers and HR have to decide how to make sure employees behave appropriately without spoiling the fun and how to manage workers who turn up late the next morning after over indulging.

It may be prudent to provide clarity around the behaviour expectations via an email or note stating that whilst you want everyone to have fun, the normal standards of professional behaviour apply and anyone who does not maintain professional behaviour may be dealt with formally.

As an employer, you are responsible for all employees and events at the Christmas party – regardless whether it is held on the premises or elsewhere – so have a duty of care to all workers and you will be liable for any act of discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Employees can be disciplined for misconduct after a Christmas party if the incident is sufficiently closely connected to work to have had an impact on the working situation.

If disciplinary action is to be taken for lateness or non-attendance after the Christmas party, employers should ensure that staff are informed that this is a possibility in the disciplinary policy.

#4 Dressing Up (or down) for Christmas

It’s Christmas jumper season and many businesses choose to relax their dress policy at this time of year, but you must choose your words carefully when notifying staff – not only to outline what you deem as the acceptable level of casualness, but also to make it clear that casual and Christmas dress is optional. Be sensitive to employees who do not celebrate Christmas.

#5 Receiving Gifts

Your employees may receive Christmas gifts from clients or suppliers. It is important for all organisations that the acceptance of these gifts does not give the appearance that they may be unduly influenced when making decisions - if your business does not currently have a Bribery Policy or Guidelines around receiving gifts, this is the ideal time to introduce some.

If you do have set policies on gifting, employees should be reminded these – e.g. all gifts and hospitality received, of whatever value, must be recorded and no personal gifts of a value in excess of set limit should be accepted without the express permission from their line manager.

HR Support over Christmas

If your organisation is experiencing any festive HR issues or you’re looking to set up or review any HR policies and guidelines to protect your business and employees, then call ForrestHR today on 01892 726060, or you can email us on

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