It is always good practice to prepare yourself and your business well in advance before the mad rush really begins.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Public Holidays – These are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the Day after New Year’s Day and this year they fall on a Friday and Saturday. Since two of these holidays (26/12 and 02/01) fall on a Saturday, for those who do not normally work on a Saturday, the Public Holidays will be transferred and observed instead on the following Monday (28/12 and 04/01). If instead the Saturdays in question would otherwise be a normal working day for an employee, these would observe the holidays on their proper day, ie on the Saturday. Effectively this means that there will be a 4-day weekend over both Christmas and New Year. Remember – an employee cannot be entitled to more than four public holidays over the Christmas / New Year period, regardless of their work pattern.

2. Shut-down period – If you are going to close down for some time over the Christmas period other than on the public holidays themselves, you need to start planning for this now. Inform your staff well in advance about when the business will be closed or on a skeleton staff so that everyone can make their own plans. As a minimum you only need to give 14 days’ notice of your intention to close down and ‘force’ employees to take annual leave, but the sooner you get this done the better. Discuss different options available to those who may not have enough entitled or accrued annual leave to cover the shutdown days. Options may include taking unpaid leave or allowing them to take paid leave in advance, or you can allow them to work through the shutdown on site or remotely if they are able to work independently of the rest of the team.
If you do normally have a shut down every year it is advisable to include this in your employment agreements. Let me know if you need any guidance on how to get this done.

3. Parties… and their after effects – I won’t go into the benefits, risks and responsibilities of organising a Christmas party for your staff ….. You’ll all be well aware of your H&S responsibilities, so if you are going to throw a party just make sure you prepare well for different eventualities (and I’m not only referring to drink driving here!!) so the party can be really enjoyable for everyone, including yourselves.

Do keep in mind that some of your team may be invited to a number of other business or private functions over the next couple of months. Let them know up front that you will be keeping an eye on any sick leave patterns that may emerge and may not accept a request for sick leave from anyone who is unable to crawl out of bed the morning after a night out! Again, best practice here is to be open and communicative with your staff not just about the ‘house rules’ and expectations, but also about the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the team. Discuss their options, such as applying for leave or arranging a late start time if they know in advance they may be taking an extra drink or two. Some staff, in particular those involved in sales, may also be invited to suppliers or clients for ‘a quick lunchtime drink’, so be extra vigilant and ensure that they are aware of their legal and employment responsibilities to not drive if they have had one drink too many. Make it clear to everyone well in advance that you will not tolerate this and that you may take disciplinary action if things got out of hand.

4. Many businesses will shut down – this includes suppliers and service providers such as accountants, payroll, banks etc. Build this into your plan as, for example, you may need to stock up on some key supplies if you are going to work through the period. Let your customers and suppliers know if you’ll be shutting down to avoid any misunderstandings such as turning up for work in January and finding 2 weeks’ worth of milk and newspapers on the doorstep because you forgot to suspend deliveries!
There will be many other things you will need to deal with leading up to Christmas, so the more you plan and prepare in advance the better it will be for you and for all your staff.

If you have any queries or wish to discuss any issues, just give me a call on 021 0744610 and I’ll be glad to help.