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Tis the season to jolly

Issue that employers are likely to encounter at this time of year:-

Handling holiday requests

Two key points for employers at this time of year are that firstly employers can set the times when workers can take their leave – for example, a Christmas shut down, and secondly, that there is no legal right to be paid public holidays – any right to paid time off for these holidays depends on the terms of a worker's contract.

It is important to have a clear policy on how holiday requests are to be handled, particularly at busy times of the year such as Christmas and New Year, where many employees are likely to want to take holidays. Any policy should be acted upon fairly so that all employees are treated equally.

Winter weather

Many employees will have experienced the disruption that can be caused when the winter weather makes it difficult for employees to travel and get to work. With poor weather potentially on the way (if news reports are to be believed) both employers and employees should give thought to how this can be managed to keep disruption to a minimum.

Key points for employers to remember:-

1. Employees are not automatically entitled to pay if they are unable to get to work because of bad weather. However, do bear in mind that some employers may have contractual or custom and practice arrangements in place for this. Discretionary payment for travel disruption might also be something to consider. Some businesses offer discretionary pay if travel difficulties have caused delays in staff being able to get to work. It is recommended that every employer have a written policy on this.

2. Be flexible wherever posssible. Employers should try to be flexible and reasonable as much as possible. How an employer handles bad weather and travel disruption can create a good opportunity to boost staff morale and productivity if it is handled well. For example, is there the opportunity for employees to work from home? Employers are encouraged to give consideration to alternatives to simply having an employee absent for the day without pay due to bad weather.

3. Deal with the issue fairly. It is inevitable that a business may be affected by absent workers, however, employers should not let frustration lead to making rash and potentially unreasonable decisions. Ensure that any measures taken are carried out according to fair and propery procedure as this will help maintain good, fair and consistent relationships with staff.

4. Plan ahead. Don't wait for the bad weather to arrive and these types of travel disruptions to begin before thought is given as to how it should be handled. Employers should consider reviewing their policy on this issue (or have a policy created if none exists) and think about how they want to handle future scenarios. Best practice is to have an 'adverse weather' or 'journey to work' policy in place that deals with the steps employees are required to take to try and get into work on time, and how the business will continue if they cannot. Employers should consider how they intend to deal with lateness and what happens with regards to employees pay. Having a clear policy in place in advance of bad weather arriving means that there is much less scope for confusion and disagreement.

Managing performance effectively

Unfortunately, it can often be the case at this time of year that the employees focus and attention is drawn away from work and more into the festivities that are being planned. Whilst the Christmas season can put most employees into a good frame of mind, which is generally a positive influence on work and productivity, too much festive spirit can often lead to performance at work dropping whilst employees focus on other things. Whether this be planning parties, going out to do quick Christmas shopping at lunchtimes, or even doing Christmas shopping online during working hours, this can reduce efficiency.

It is important to manage performance of staff effectively to ensure that, whilst not dampening the Christmas spirit, employees are focused on the job in hand whilst in the workplace.

This could range from giving out guidance to employees about what they may spend time on during working hours, for example having a clear policy on personal internet usage whilst at work, or to generally ensure that all employees are clear about the employer's expectations.

Managing performance is important to continuously improve the performance of individuals and that of the organisation. It involves making sure that the performance of employees contributes to the goals of their teams and the business as a whole.

For advice on any of the above issues, contact our Employment Law team on 01302 320621 – we will be happy to provide help and advice.




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