The run-up to Christmas is often a challenging time for employers. As well as the everyday pressures of running a businesses, the festive season brings extra complexities. Managing staff holidays whilst ensuring sufficient cover, expected and unexpected absences and lateness due to festive cheer and an early payroll can all pose problems for SMEs which could have repercussions long past the holiday season. Plan ahead and be prepared for all the common problems which can arise during the Christmas period.
Advice on some common employer queries at Christmas:
- Christmas closure period – decide well ahead about any shutdown period between Christmas Day and the New Year Bank Holidays. While some businesses will open during that period, others will close completely and require staff to take those days as part of their annual holiday entitlement. This year Christmas (Tuesday) and Boxing Day (Wednesday) fall on weekdays. UK employees do not have a legal right to paid leave on these public holidays unless it's included in their contract.
To head off any issues, ensure staff know well in advance about company policy and be consistent in applying it. Provided the employer responds to requests in due time, employees cannot insist on taking holiday during the Christmas period. However, nor should managers overreact – an Employment Tribunal did not support a retailer who dismissed a member of staff for failing to turn up for work on Christmas Eve (Stott v Next Retail Ltd).
- Early payroll – most firms will bring forward the monthly payroll date in December compared to other months. Make sure you've planned ahead for this earlier expenditure and that your payroll team is prepared. An automated HR and payroll system can easily make the calculations and export the information to payroll software such as Sage or a payroll bureau.
- Christmas bonus - more prevalent in some sectors than others, consider in advance if employees will receive a little festive extra in their pay-packets. Plan ahead to calculate costs and include this in the December payroll.
- Staff absences for festive parties – at this time of year employers may see an increase in requests for absences or early leaving times. Think ahead about how your organisation will tackle such requests – you probably won’t deduct time for in-house events but might expect staff to take leave for events elsewhere. If staff turn up late for work after social events the night before roundings and grace . Make the policies clear and available to staff so they know where they stand. Payroll will need to take account of changes to hours and pay to ensure accurate pay.
- Shorter working month – the shorter working month will impact your business in terms of supplier deliveries. Ensure you’ve anticipated your needs, know what your suppliers will be able to deliver by when, and use workforce availability calendars and scheduling tools to make sure there's enough staff resource available.
The Chronologic time and attendance system can help businesses manage staff efficiently to ensure festive period working runs smoothly. Track staff attendance, manage absences and compile payroll on one automated system.