POSTED: December 03 2021
Managing Employee Leave at Christmas

Managing Employee Leave at Christmas

Offering your team the opportunity to recharge and rejuvenate over Christmas, while ensuring business operations are not adversely affected can be a juggling act.

If you’re the person responsible for managing your company’s annual leave, it can be more anxious than exciting! For some businesses, December may be quieter in the run up to Christmas – for others, the constant rush fails to show any signs of settling down. Wherever you are on the scale, one thing is for certain: managers and employees alike look to Christmas as a time to relax. With hybrid and remote working blurring the work life relationship, it’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing work to creep into our personal lives. As employers, it’s your responsibility to encourage employees to take time away from work, for both the good of their health and to maintain productivity.

My business needs to stay open over Christmas

In the last decade, there has been a staggering increase in the number of people who work over Christmas, with almost a million people working on Christmas Day in 2019!

One of the fairest and most common ways to manage Christmas cover is to work on a first come, first served basis. Before granting anything to your team, and to ensure fairness, it would be advisable to check who had what days off last year. We’d also recommend being flexible with shift swapping among the team where possible. If your business cannot close over Christmas, it would be wise to let people volunteer for key dates first – there are some people who don’t mind working over Christmas. Advise the team that you will be planning to cover X shifts, with X amount of people. People may very well come forward, and this will be half the battle solved.

A recent survey by Rotageek found that 41% of employers admit to wrongly predicting the number of employees needed over bank holidays. Mis-predicting levels can result in under or over staffing – both of which can negatively impact employee engagement. We’d recommend considering exactly what staffing levels you may need before planning rotas. Remember, you’re not legally obligated to pay employees extra for working on bank holidays, but it pays to be generous and flexible where possible.

My business is closing over Christmas

If you know your business will always shut down between Christmas and New Year, you should let your employees know as soon as possible. Ideally, this should be included in your contracts of employment, so that all employees  are aware from the moment they begin work in your business.

You’ll need to let your team know if you need them to take holiday to cover a Christmas shut down, and legally, you only need to give employees twice the amount of notice as the number of days holiday you want them to take – so if your employees need to take two days off over Christmas, you’d need to give them four days’ notice. Be mindful that giving such little notice could lead to your employees being a little disgruntled!

The practical difficulty with doing this, is that if your holiday year is January to December, employees may not have any allowance left if you haven’t warned them in advance. If this is the case, your options would be to allow the day off as unpaid, allow them to work if its still practical to do so, or offer a one off additional holiday allowance.

Employee contracts

Regardless of whether your business closes or remains open over Christmas, so much of the language around holiday entitlement comes from employees’ contract and your employee  handbook, so you should ensure this is as clear as possible. This should also be consistent across employees, so there’s no chance of any perceived unfair or preferential treatment, and how employees on different working hours should expect these holidays to be treated. Ensuring this information is clearly communicated in the employee handbook will avoid the risk of running into problems later down the line.

Talk to advo today about your employee contracts, or help with staff coverage over Christmas.

The above content is given as a general overview only, the best courses of action will vary from business to business. We would always advise seeking professional hr advice from the team at advo if you are in any doubt.