Be careful this festive season…and not just of the ice!

Rocking Around the Christmas Tree?

Whilst it is important that the Christmas festivities are enjoyed by all, it is equally important that employers don’t bury their heads in the snow when it comes to employment law issues over the festive period.

We provide some advice to help employers effectively manage the festive furore.

Christmas: A Religious Issue?

While it should be remembered that not everybody celebrates Christmas for personal or religious reasons and those who do not wish to participate in the festivities (be it Secret Santa, Christmas Jumper Day or the Christmas party) should not be discriminated against, employers should act proportionately. It is okay to send Christmas cards and hold a Christmas party without fear of a discrimination claim but employers should also be sensitive towards other religious beliefs and ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally.


The “works do” is undoubtedly one of the biggest social events of the year. It gives both employers and employees the opportunity to mix, relax and enjoy the fruits of the year’s labour. However, the Christmas party is also an extension of the working environment and it should be remembered that employers can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory acts by employees – even when the event in question is outside of working hours and away from the usual place of work.

It is worth reminding employees that as the Christmas party is an extension of work, any issues will be dealt with in the same way as it would be if it had happened in the office.

Last Christmas You Gave Me a Raise

While it is fine to offer a free bar at the Christmas party, excessive drinking can cause more problems than a hangover the morning after.

It is best to avoid discussions relating to salary, promotion or future prospects with employees whilst under the influence. Promises relating to pay and promotion can be contractually binding – even if it was the prosecco talking!

‘Tis the Season to Be Poorly!

It is not unusual to see an increase in employee absence during the festive period. Over indulgence and a rise in the common cold and flu virus are among the reasons employees may opt for a “duvet day” through-out December. Employers should have up to date sickness absence policies in place and employees should be reminded that any unauthorised absence may be treated as a disciplinary matter.

Driving Home for Christmas

Christmas can be a real headache for employers in relation to holiday requests. Many employees will be eager to take time off to be with their families over the Christmas period but obviously, not every member of staff can have the same period off.  Employers should ensure that there is a procedure in place for requesting holiday. Remember, an employer is entitled to refuse holiday requests, provided that it gives notice equivalent to the period of leave requested.

If you have a discretionary “shut down”, be sure to let your employees know in advance if/when you intend on shutting down. Such notice must be at least twice the length of the period of leave that the employee is being required to take. Contracts of employment should be up to date and employers should act consistently when dealing with holidays.

If you have any queries arising from this article please do not hesitate to contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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