The Christmas period is a time of joy and celebration for many
but employers can often face employment law issues leaving them
feeling more "bah-humbug" than "cheers". Set
out below are common problems that arise for employers at this time
Some of my employees have
not turned up to work on time the day after the Christmas party.
What can I do?
Many employers will deal with this
type of situation informally by having a word to try and ensure it
does not happen again and perhaps getting them to agree to make up
the lost time. However, it is essentially a disciplinary issue so,
if employees are rolling into work late and you want to deal with
this formally, you should consult your disciplinary rules,
investigate the facts and, if appropriate, commence disciplinary
proceedings. Remember that in all misconduct cases (such as these
unauthorised absences), the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary
and Grievance Procedures should be followed.
Some employers might also have a
right to deduct pay for the time missed but this will depend on the
specific contractual terms you have in place.
How do I deal with reports
of harassment that occurred at the out-of-hours Christmas
If an employee complains that they
have been harassed at the work party, their complaint should be
investigated and dealt with in the usual way. Even if the party was
outside of the usual hours of work of the employee, it is still
likely to be considered as a work-related event and therefore an
employer has a duty of care towards the employee.
If the allegations are
well-founded, disciplinary action against the harasser is likely to
One of my employees is
saying that I cannot compel him to work on Christmas Day. Is this
There is no statutory right for an
employee to take time off work on bank or public holidays, which is
good news for the hospitality and leisure sector, where it is
essential that employees are available to work all year round.
The arrangements for an
employee's holiday are governed by their contractual terms and
so, assuming there is nothing in his contract stating that he does
not need to work, you can expect him to work on Christmas Day.
That said, if the employee is a
Christian and is asserting that he needs the day off because
Christmas is a Christian festival, you could potentially face
religious discrimination claims if you do not allow him to take the
day as holiday. To avoid such a claim, you would need to show that
your refusal for him to take his holiday on Christmas Day was
justified. The legal test for this is that the refusal was "a
proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".
In the past I have paid a
£100 Christmas bonus to each of my employees. Do I have to do
this again this year?
If the right to receive this
Christmas bonus is written in the employee's contract of
employment, you need to pay this again. If not, you could face a
claim of breach of contract and/or an unlawful deduction from their
Even if there is nothing written in
their contract, the right to such a bonus might be expressly
included in an employee handbook or similar or it could be implied
by the custom and practice of what has gone on in previous years.
If it is the case that you have always paid this bonus without
exception, it is very likely that the employees can demand it this
Christmas too, because it has become an expected right.
However, if you do not wish to pay
it, you could try consulting with the employees to explain why you
are unwilling or unable to pay the bonus this year and see whether
they are prepared to accept that change. Alternatively, you might
be able to agree a compromise, such as paying a £50 bonus
Hopefully the above helps to steer
you through some of the season's pitfalls and will mean a
contented and claim-free start to 2017.
This article first appeared in
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.
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Goodman Derrick's employment team will be hosting a workshop on HR horrors and how to deal with them. This practical session, on Wednesday 10 May 2017, will use case studies to deal with some of the tricky HR situations often faced by employers.
In SSE Generation Limited v Hochtief Solutions AG and another decided on 21st December 2016, the Court of Session in Scotland considered a contractor's potential design liability under the NEC Form of Contract.
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