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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.