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Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Managing the practicalities of the Christmas workplace (without being a Grinch)

Tis the season to be jolly…. but as a small business owner the idea of Christmas can understandably bring with it a slight feeling of dread. All that time off, the great wind down, the slow down from clients, lack of productivity and the season for winter bugs, it is a lot to contend with.

You are not on your own, every year at around this time, we receive a ton of questions about workplace issues at Christmas. From parties to time off and everything in between, is your business really ready for the festive period?  Don’t panic you are not a Scrooge to your office of Bob Cratchets, all of these are perfectly normal and practical questions to ask and we hear all of them, a lot, at this time of year.

Do I have to host a workplace party?

Unless a party is agreed to in the contract of employment, you don’t have to offer one. It’s worth noting here too though that if you’ve always held an event previously, it may be the case that it’s now expected. It’s true that parties can often throw up a range of HR headaches, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate with your employees and take the opportunity to thank them for their good work throughout the year. You don’t have to break the bank, and it could be a great morale booster. Remember New Year is around the corner with tempting new opportunities for your talent to eye up other options – so hosting a party, lunch or drinks is a nice touch to remind them that this is a great place to work.

What do I do if I suspect someone is throwing a sicky the day after the Christmas Party?

Unfortunately not a lot! Suspecting faking illness is incredibly hard to prove and a very sensitive subject.  You are much better off taking preventative action up front to discourage this behaviour.  Make your expectations clear, you are throwing this party for everyone to enjoy and celebrate the end of the year together, you expect everyone to be in the office the next day even if you are all feeling a little worse for wear.  If you are feeling generous, you could offer a slightly later start time to pre-empt any late excuses – or lay on some bacon butties to get them all back into action.

Do I have to grant all requests for time off?

No. It’s not always going to be possible to give all members of staff the exact leave that they request, and it goes without saying that you have operational requirements that you need to fulfill. What’s most important here is that your policy around leave requests is very clearly communicated, and that you take a fair approach.

Can I make employees take annual leave if I close down the place of work?

Yes. If you will be closing the workplace for a period of time over Christmas, you can require staff to take that time out of their leave allocation, as long as there is no agreement to the contrary. You do need to give appropriate notice though – you’ll find the festive spirit might be lacking if you only inform them right at the last minute! – and the arrangements should be covered in your relevant people policies.

What can I do to avoid any issues arising?

Communicate well with your team: understand what people are doing and when they have time planned off. Your role is to continue to motivate the team and being proactive could save you a load of time, money, and hassle. Take the opportunity now to ensure that your expectations over what needs delivering by year end are made crystal clear, ensure  any relevant policies are up to date, that your managers are onboard, and that you’ve pinpointed how to minimise any risk. You may even want to consider issuing a statement to staff about acceptable codes of behaviour ahead of any functions or events. 

If you know that you need to do some work to ensure that the festive season passes by without any hiccups, get in touch. We can help you to make any necessary changes, and provide you with the practical guidance you need.  TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.


Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

Parental Bereavement Leave Bill – What Employers Need To Know

It is hard to know what to do or say to someone who has suffered the unimaginable nightmare of losing a baby or child. The immediate and subsequent days, weeks and months following the death of a child are a time of great pain and confusion for a bereaved parent. These times are also a source of tremendous uncertainty for those around them as they grapple with a sense of helplessness watching their friend and colleague navigate this painful experience.

The government have now recognised that taking paid time off work under these circumstances should be a key employee right and published the Parental Bereavement (Pay & Leave) Bill on 13th October, it is expected to come into force in 2020. Introduced by Kevin Hollinrake MP, it will give employed parents with a minimum of 26 weeks of continuous service a day-one right to two weeks of paid parental bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. Employers will be able to reclaim some or all of the costs, and the proposals were first outlined in the Conservative manifesto, published earlier in the year.

You may be surprised that legislation doesn’t already exist in this area. Though many employers have their own policies for supporting bereaved members of staff, the Employment Rights Act only states that employees should have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency concerning a dependent, including making arrangements following a death.

Business minister, Margot James said, ‘We want parents to feel properly supported by their employer when they go through the deeply distressing ordeal of losing a child. That’s why Government is backing this bill which goes significantly further than most other countries in providing this kind of workplace right for employees’.

The proposed legislation has been warmly welcomed by charities that support those suffering from the bereavement of a child. Chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, Debbie Kerslake commented, ‘It is vital that at such a distressing time those who are bereaved can take time away from work’.

As a concerned and responsible employer if you find yourself with an employee in this situation, getting the first phone call right is critical.  Firstly you must acknowledge the child’s death and offer your support and understanding, be prepared to listen and of course offer complete reassurance that there is no workplace expectation or pressure and work is the last thing they need to concern themselves with.  How this is handled cannot be underestimated.  Let them know you and their colleagues are ready to help in whatever way they need. No matter how brief the contact, these thoughtful gestures will always be appreciated and remembered even if it doesn’t appear immediately obvious.

Some suggestions on how you can help them through those initial days:

  • Ask them if you can call them again in a few days to see how they are doing.
  • Send flowers and a card or a donation in lieu of flowers on behalf of your company. This may help them with the cost of the funeral
  • Ask if they would like you or colleagues to attend the funeral and offer your full support
  • Cover their workload – let them know not to worry about their job as the work will get done
  • Ask how and what they would like you to communicate to their workplace and colleagues

You may already have your own policies and procedures, but with the new legislation this is a good opportunity for exemplary employers to consider their approach, and establish whether they’re giving their staff the best level of support during such a difficult time.  For further information and advice acas has a good practice guide on managing bereavement in the workplace.

It goes without saying here that you need to consider the longer-term impact of bereavement, and how staff are supported after their two weeks of leave. There is no right or wrong way to grieve – nor is there a set timetable for grief.  It may be the case that you’ll roll out flexible working provisions to help the bereaved get back to work, or that you’ll offer counseling. As with all initiatives that impact that workforce, it’s not just a case of creating your policies. You need to make sure that your line managers are appropriately equipped to deal with sensitive situations and are confident in their roles.

A parental bereavement policy is something that everyone hopes that they’ll never have to consider, but now is the time to think about how you give your employees what they need during tough times. Will you be reviewing your approach in light of the proposed legislative changes?

TheHRhub is the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs – providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. It’s like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag!

Call us on 0203 627 7048 or drop us a line at for a no-strings chat about your HR needs.

Image : Unsplash