UK: An Employer's Guide To Surviving December

Last Updated: 16 December 2016
Article by Deborah Scales and Daniel Stander

1. You can celebrate Christmas without offending other religions

So says the Equality & Human Rights Commission which encourages employers to take a common sense approach. There is no need to take disproportionate measures such as replacing the word "Christmas" or banning carol singing. Click here for the EHRC's on line Guidance for Employers on Religion and Belief Discrimination which went live on 2 December 2016.

2. You can shut down your business over the Christmas break

There is no rule to prevent employers requiring staff to take some of their statutory or contractual holiday entitlement during a period of business shut down. Simply make that clear in the contracts of employment.

3. Working from home over the break

Consider data protection issues in advance if you are going to let staff work from home. Providing remote access to your company email is going to be far safer that allowing staff to forward your business emails to their personal addresses. A Data Protection and IT Policy will help here.

4. Corporate gift giving and receiving

Take care that gifts given or received are not too lavish or the business could fall foul of the Bribery Act 2010. A bribe is defined as a "financial or other advantage" offered, promised or given to induce a person to perform a relevant function or activity improperly, or to reward them for doing so.

This broad-ranging description covers many types of possible advantage including those typically offered at this time of year such as gifts, hospitality and entertainment. It is an offence for a commercial organisation to fail to prevent bribery by an "associated person"; this definition covers those who perform services for and on behalf of the employer. It covers agents, consultants and volunteers as well as employees. Consequences of a breach of the Bribery Act are severe. Individuals can face up to ten years in prison and commercial organisations can face unlimited fines and be prevented from tending for public contracts.

Employers have a defence if they can show that they had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery. Helpfully there is no definition or specific explanation of what an "adequate procedure" might be. The Ministry of Justice has produced some guidance which can be found here:

We recommend having a clear, understandable Anti-Corruption and Bribery policy, staff training, risk assessments and management commitment to anti-bribery. It's also good practice to require all staff who receives a gift worth, say, more than £50 to £75 or more to record it in a Register of Gifts.

5. Those 'Duvet Days'

It's snowing and your staff are struggling to get to work. What's your policy on pay if they don't make it in, working from home, making up hours and keeping in contact? Are you consistent from year to year and across staff? Do you have an adverse weather policy? Remember, employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of time off because of unexpected disruption to a dependent's care arrangements, for example if the school or nursery closes. There is no statutory right to be paid for this time off but employers must not subject the employee to a detriment for exercising this right. Click here for more detailed information on some of these issues.

6. Christmas Bonuses

No employer wants to create bad feeling by disappointing staff with a Christmas bonus less generous than the year before. A safer strategy might be to keep Christmas bonuses relatively modest and save the more serious bonus schemes aimed at rewarding performance for another time of year. Remember, discretionary bonuses can become a contractual right through regular custom and practice. Take care too not to breach the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence which requires employers to treat all employees in an even handed way and not exercise their discretion to award or refuse to award bonuses in an arbitrary or irrational manner.

7. High spirits or bringing your business into disrepute?

Nobody wants to be a kill joy but it's a good idea to remind staff who are out socialising with clients or suppliers that they are ambassadors for your business and they shouldn't make a turkey of themselves. Bringing the business into disrepute is a potentially fair reason to discipline or dismiss an employee.

8. No offence meant, it was just harmless banter...

Notice how we've left the trickiest topic till last. As Christmas drinks flow, tongues loosen and one of your employees believes he or she is satirical wit of the year. When does a comment that relates to a colleague's "protected characteristic" cross the line from harmless banter to harassment under S26 of the Equality Act 2010? It can be a mine field as the case law on this issue shows.

The definition of harassment is unwanted conduct, related to a protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment for that individual. (The relevant protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation).

A one off incident can amount to harassment and the individual need not have made the harasser aware that the conduct was unwanted. This conduct can include a wide range of behaviour, including spoken or written words or abuse, imagery, graffiti, physical gestures, facial expressions, mimicry, jokes and pranks. Putting up with banter, or even joining with it, does not mean that the conduct was unwanted.

Tribunals will also consider the purpose or the effect of the harassment on the individual. This means that even if the harasser did not intend to upset the individual, the behaviour could still amount to harassment. Where the harassment is based only on the 'effect' (i.e. the harasser did not intend to upset) the tribunal will consider whether it is reasonable for the complainant to regard themselves as having been harassed. This additional test is used by tribunals to discourage (in the words of the Employment Appeal Tribunal) "a culture of hyper-sensitivity or the imposition of legal liability in respect of every unfortunate phrase."

Employers are liable for the unlawful acts of harassment committed by their employees but they do have a defence if they "take all reasonable steps" to prevent the harassment happening in the first place. Like the Bribery Act above, we recommend a clear understandable Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy, staff training and management commitment to promoting equal opportunities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.