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Christmas is one of the most joyous times of the year when every workplace seems embodied with the Yuletide spirit. From organising Secret Santa to Christmas work parties and giving to charities, December can be a magical time for employers and a chance to show employees how much their contribution over the year has meant to your business’s success. It is important to be mindful, however, of the various legal issues that can arise during the festive period. By being alive to potential issues you can ensure you are complying with relevant rules and regulations and avoid potential claims in an Employment Tribunal.

To help you navigate the regulatory requirements that become pertinent at Christmas this article covers:

  • Adverse weather conditions
  • Christmas shutdowns

Adverse weather conditions

Many of us waited long for a White Christmas and although the Met Office’s long-range December forecast shows that snow on Christmas Day looks unlikely, there is always hope that they will be wrong.

Even if a white blanket of joy and fun does not appear on Christmas Day, December and January often bring adverse weather conditions which make it extremely difficult and even dangerous for some employees to get into work. Make sure your organisation has clear policies in place concerning what happens regarding pay if your premises has to close or certain employees cannot get to work due to bad weather. If you do not have a policy an Employment Law Solicitor can draft one for you.

Regarding whether or not you can demand employees come into work if it is deemed unsafe for them to do so - the answer is no. As an employer, you owe a duty of care to your staff and must not put them in a situation where their safety is compromised. Furthermore, if you decide to close your workplace due to adverse weather conditions making it unsafe to open then you will still have to pay any employees who have guaranteed hours.

If you keep your workplace open and some employees cannot or will not come into work you may not need to remunerate those employees who are paid by the hour. Salaried employees, however, who are ready and willing to come into work may have a claim if their pay is deducted.

The uncertainty surrounding paying employees for ‘snow days’ means it is incredibly important to have documented policies and procedures in place and to have these checked by an experienced Employment Law Solicitor.

Christmas shutdowns

Many organisations shut down for a period between the end of December and early January. If your workplace closes its doors for the festive period you will need to include this fact in your employment contracts and make it clear to employees that they must set aside some of their annual leave to take during December/January.

It is also important to let employees know what time they can finish work on Christmas Eve. Many employers allow staff to finish early but if this is not something you can or want to do ensure you communicate this clearly so your employees can plan accordingly.

Wrapping up

Christmas is a busy, positive time for most SMEs. Being confident about the employment law rules and regulations that can affect this period means you as well as your staff can enjoy a stress-free end of the year. Below are three tips to keep things running smoothly during the frantic Christmas rush.

  1. Ensure your HR systems are in order, and you know who is taking annual leave and how long they will be absent. This will protect you from being short-staffed during crucial periods such as the January sales.
  2. Keep in mind that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Be sensitive when organising Secret Santa/Christmas, jumper day, etc. If you have a mix of cultures in your workplace celebrating all the relevant events and customs such as Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Pesach can be a brilliant way to bring your team together.
  3. Talk to your Employment Law Solicitor if you are unsure of any rules and regulations surrounding your Christmas plans.

Get legal assistance from LawBite

If you have any questions regarding any of the workplace issues that can arise during this festive season do not hesitate to contact LawBite expert employment and commercial lawyers to clear out your doubts. 

LawBite lawyers will be happy to assist you and help you protect your business and employees. Book a free 15-minute consultation today!

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In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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