The Pitfalls of Playing Santa to Employees

Managing a business over the Christmas period can be a huge headache for employers. With lots of staff wanting time off, organising holidays, payment of salaries over the festive period and Christmas parties (plus the inevitable aftermath), there is so much to think about and organise. It is important to strike the right balance between being fair and reasonable – to allow staff to enjoy the celebrations – and being a killjoy.

You need to get your Christmas company strategy in place as soon as possible so you are prepared for the festivities; here are our top five tips to help you make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

Brief everyone of the shut down

It is vital to the smooth running of your business to pro-actively plan holiday periods every year. The first, most important strategy to have in place is to ensure that all staff are clear on working days, any mandatory annual leave days and what shut down period there is over Christmas in plenty of time before the big day.

Many businesses close over the Christmas period, so holiday that has to be taken at a certain time that is included as part of your employees’ entitlement should be clearly outlined in an annual leave policy so you always have something in writing to refer back to along with the procedure.

If you do require staff to work over the Christmas break, make sure you set up a fair system for deciding who has to come in. You could ask for volunteers, but if you want something more reliable, set up a rota system each year to show you are being fair to all your employees.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas

The UK has a very multicultural society, so there’s every chance that your staff are from different ethnic or religious backgrounds, some of whom do not celebrate Christmas; do not make the mistake of thinking it will be obvious who does and who doesn’t. Make sure all staff are treated equally over the Christmas period; do not make any assumptions that just because a member of staff does not personally celebrate Christmas that they wish to work while the rest of the staff are away.

The Office Aftermath

It’s difficult to police employees’ behaviour at the Christmas party but setting boundaries beforehand will ensure they understand the expected behaviour. Remind staff of the standards you expect from them and the type of behaviour that is unacceptable during the planning stages. Also think about the date of the party which can be a crucial issue – midweek venue bookings are often cheaper, but do you want to run the risk of staff being hungover at work the morning after? If you have staff that either drive to work, drive as part of their job or are required to handle machinery then a midweek party is inadvisable.

Employee Absence

Dealing with absences as a result of staff overindulging in Christmas festivities can be frustrating at this time of year. Whilst as an employer you have control over when to schedule your company’s Christmas party to avoid next day absences, it is inevitable that there will be some staff who intend on enjoying themselves midweek without a thought to the fact that they have to work the following day.

Include a reminder about conduct in the run up to Christmas as part of your monthly or weekly meeting in November or early December. If hangover-induced absenteeism has been a problem in previous years, you may want to make it clear that you are monitoring absences and will deal with excessive sickness appropriately.

Christmas Payments

For many companies it is traditional to pay employees a week or two early in December to fund Christmas spending, though it may not be popular with everyone. Companies do this to look after staff; as giving out Christmas bonuses doesn’t happen so much any more, they give them early pay instead.

Unfortunately for some, early pay in December affects their ability to budget sensibly and results in a wait of five or six weeks for the next pay packet, leaving them worse off in January.

In today’s economic climate, staff bonuses are being given out less and less by businesses, so if bonuses have been given out in previous years but it is not viable to give them out any more, a way has to be found to soften the blow.

Bonuses are generally awarded at the discretion of management and are effectively a nice gesture, but it would only be fair to your employees to give them fair notice if you are considering stopping them. A fair way to do this would be to give bonuses this year but inform staff that it will not happen the following year – that way they are not expecting a bonus in the run up to next Christmas.