RSB Lindsays Offers Four Top Tips for Employers to Prosper This Festive Season


17th December 2015

In the midst of the festive season many employees are enjoying Christmas parties and other work related social events – employers should note these tips to ensure a healthy, happy season is had by all.

Christmas parties and holiday planning are now in full swing and if they haven’t already, employers are advised to prepare for potential HR pitfalls such as:

•              Poor conduct

•              Holiday issues

•              Sickness absence issues

•              Discrimination

Poor Conduct

If you have a policy on Christmas parties and social events you should ensure staff are familiar with the terms.  Otherwise employers should consider the option of issuing a statement to employees in advance of a Christmas party or similar work-related event.

This can remind employees that the behaviour and conduct expected of them within the workplace extends to work-related social events, including the dangers of excess alcohol consumption.  Employers can be considered vicariously

liable for the action and behaviour of employees at such events unless they can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent it.

It is open for an employer to discipline an employee for misconduct at a work-related social event if that conduct is closely enough connected to work to have had an impact on the working situation.

Holiday Issues

Employees cannot insist on taking holidays over the festive period.  If an organisation does not operate a shut-down period over Christmas and New Year, employees must give appropriate notice in respect of any annual leave that they wish to take. 

There is also no statutory right to time off during bank holidays or to extra pay on such days, therefore employers should refer to the contractual arrangements in this respect.  However, holiday requests need not be granted automatically if the employer has a legitimate business reason for refusing.

If the employee takes leave without approval this will be considered an unauthorised absence and should be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.  Legal advice should be sought in this instance to ensure that the appropriate sanction is considered.

It is advisable to have a clear Annual Leave Policy in place to avoid any dispute.

Sickness Absence Issues

Sickness absence or non-attendance at work can be common the morning after the night before. Where an employee does not attend due to illness, the employer should follow its absence management policy and procedures.

If an employer has reserved the right to make deductions from wages for unauthorised absence in the employment contract then it may be able to make the appropriate deduction from the employee’s pay, otherwise disciplinary action may be taken.  Employers should ensure that staff are made aware of this possibility.


Discrimination in the workplace by reason of religion or belief is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Although employees do not have a statutory right to time off for religious observance, a refusal to grant Christian employees time off for any of the bank holidays with religious significance could potentially amount to indirect religious discrimination.

If an employee states that they wish to take leave for reasons relating to religion or belief, and permission is refused, the employer must be able to justify its decision by reference to reasons unrelated to the employee\'s religion or belief. Having a clear policy in force in respect of the timing of holidays and the processing of requests will assist an employer in these circumstances.

It may also be wise to issue a statement to employees regarding Secret Santa etiquette to avoid any racial, religious or sexual based gifts that may cause offence, whether intentional or not.

If you would like advice on this or any other employment matter, please contact Kate Waytt, Director in RSB Lindsays Employment team.


Lindsays LLP

We are an award winning law firm offering a full range of legal services for individuals, families and businesses. Whether you need help on a specific issue, such as family law, employment, private letting or residential property or want to plan for the future, we provide expert advice and support.

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