Christmas can be a great opportunity for employers to reward staff for their hard work and show they are valued. It’s also a chance for co-workers to relax and socialise with each other, which can boost morale and engagement. However, employers need to be able to navigate their way through a range of potential personnel matters.
Here are the CIPD’s, the professional body for HR and people development, tips on how organisations can make the most of the festivities.
Research from the CIPD showed that last year:
- 60% of employers were laying on a party or lunch for staff, making it the most popular Christmas perk.
- 18% of employers were giving their staff a gift at Christmas, such as shopping vouchers or a hamper. Another 14% would offer a Christmas bonus to staff.
- 10% of employers were giving paid leave to parents to attend a school event, like a nativity play.
Employers can unfairly earn the reputation of being killjoys at this time of year. You need to get the balance right between allowing people to have fun, while also looking after their well-being.
Inclusivity – Not all religions or faiths celebrate Christmas and not everyone likes a party, so attendance should be optional. If food is on offer, consider different dietary requirements such as Halal, Kosher and vegetarian preferences. Make sure you consider timings, venue and accessibility requirements too.
Alcohol - Providing a free bar all night can encourage excessive drinking and increase the likelihood of staff behaving inappropriately. Offer a couple of complimentary drinks instead and give managers responsibility for ensuring that employees do not become unwell or disorderly. Make sure non-alcoholic drinks are also served.
Make your expectations clear - Remind people of the behaviour that’s expected of them beforehand, including communicating your policies on dignity and respect and on drugs and alcohol misuse.
Legal responsibilities - Even if the party is held off work premises, you may still be liable for any discriminatory behaviour such as sexual harassment.
Safety – Think about how people will get home afterwards; you may want to consider laying on a minibus or reimbursing people for taxis.
Giving parents or carers time off to atend their child's school play
Be flexible - Some organisations may have a paid leave policy so parents can attend school events. If you don’t, consider allowing employees to work from home on the day of the event, or to make up any time lost later on.
Be consistent – If you allow parents time off, extend flexibility to other workers too. Make sure managers are alert to any sign of conflict in their teams about time off.
Think strategically – Not all organisations will give gifts to staff but if you are, consider what could give you a competitive advantage in this tight labour market. If you can align it with your business strategy that’s even better.
Publicise them – To ensure your staff don’t miss out and you don’t waste spend.
Ask for feedback – Make sure you monitor uptake and ask if they’re valued by staff so you can make further improvements for next time.
Check the tax implications – Employees can face a tax bill on some of these rewards and benefits. Check the HMRC website for further guidance.
Make sure the workplace temperature is reasonable - There’s no legal minimum or maximum temperature for UK workplaces, but employers need to make sure that workers are comfortable and able to get on with their jobs.
Be accommodating - If people have difficulty commuting into work because of bad weather, be flexible. Give people the option to come in later or to work from home where possible. Employers should be particularly mindful of people with a disability or health condition, or if they are pregnant.
Have a continuity plan - To ensure the safety of your staff and minimise disruption to your business, have a plan for cover if some staff can’t get into work. Everyone will need to be familiar with the process.
Health and well-being
Train your managers – Christmas can be a happy time of year for many, but it can be difficult for some. Managers should be trained to spot the warning signs of poor mental well-being or stress, so they are comfortable having sensitive conversations and can signpost to expert sources of help where needed.
Encourage a healthy lifestyle – Suggest people get outdoors during their lunch break to make the most of the natural sunlight during the winter months. You may want to signpost to advice on healthy eating or host an on-site exercise or relaxation class if there is interest.
Signpost people to expert sources of help – Christmas can put a strain on people’s finances. Make sure you can signpost people to independent organisations that can offer expert money and debt advice, like Citizens Advice and Step Change.
Start a financial education programme – Help to increase the financial knowledge and skills of your staff by offering advice to people at different stages of their career. You may also want to consider hosting a series of talks on different topics, such as pensions and savings, and give people the opportunity to receive independent financial advice.
Be non-judgemental - Employees will be more willing to disclose their money problems, and the impact this might be having on their mental health, if they feel that they won’t be judged by their colleagues or line managers.
Find a mutually beneficial partnership – Try and team up with a charity where your staff can put their existing skills to good use, or develop new ones, to help the charity achieve its goals.
Allow everyone to get involved – So that the entire business can benefit. Decide how much volunteering time you will allow staff to take during working hours (in addition to annual leave).
Volunteering days – Bringing the organisation together for a common cause can be a good bonding experience. However, don’t make this compulsory and try to offer a variety of causes that staff can support.
Publicise local opportunities – Consider pulling together a list of local charities that are looking for volunteers over the Christmas holidays and letting staff know about them.
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