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Peter Etherington
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Employment Update for Small Businesses
December 2022

Dear Subscriber

As we move into December, Lindsey and I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

As ever, our thoughts turn to the HR challenges involved with the festive season. So read on for some hints and tips, that you may find useful.

Please contact me if you would like to find out a bit more about any of the subjects raised in this update or if you need any help or advice.

Please forward this email to any of your contacts who might find it of benefit.

Peter Etherington
Tel: 01664 668164


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Peter Etherington
Year End HR Issues
Winding down or gearing up?
Depending on your particular sector, December may be the month of ever increasing calm in the workplace or it may be the busiest time of the year (e.g. in retail).

Holiday Entitlement
If it is a busy time for you, one issue may always prove problematic – staff needing to use up their holiday before the year ends. If your holiday year is January to December, and December is your busiest month, then you really need to consider changing your holiday year. You could, for instance, move it to tie in with the tax year (April to March), or why not go for something like September to August, so that the panic to use up all the outstanding holiday falls at a more convenient time of the year, and well away from the Christmas rush.

Whilst it can be a little complicated to move from one holiday year to another, we can assist you with the process and do all the calculations for you. Please contact us to find out more.

Christmas Parties
It may be that you are arranging a works Christmas do this year, perhaps the first one since before COVID struck, and have forgotten how messy they can sometimes turn out!

The HR worry about Christmas parties is that the law views them as an extension of work. So if one of your staff gets too free with the mistletoe, that could well be classified as sexual harassment in the workplace. So as an employer, what can you do?

It may sound a bit “Bah humbug” to lay down rules ahead of any Christmas party, but it may be a sensible move. This can be done in a subtle manner, and may work best in combination with the invitation. For example: “Whilst we hope that everyone can let their hair down and enjoy a relaxing, informal evening with colleagues, please do remember that this is a work function and you are there as a representative of the Company. So please bear in mind that you are still required to maintain good standards of behaviour so that everyone has a positive experience.”

If you are supplying alcohol, it may be sensible to consider providing overnight accommodation or transport home.

Bad Weather
Whilst it has been unseasonably warm so far this winter, there is good chance that we will see some bad weather over the next couple of months. If staff are snowed in but are able to work from home, then it is not such an issue, but what do you do for those who can’t work from home?

The legal position is that you do not have to pay someone if they are unable to attend work. But you may decide to allow them to take some holiday instead, or make up the time, or you may decide to exercise discretion and allow them some paid time off. You don’t really want to be in a situation where staff are feeling they have to get to work no matter what, if that could put them at risk.

However, if you have to close the workplace due to bad weather, so that you are effectively preventing staff attending work, then you do need to pay them as normal unless you have a temporary lay-off clause in the contract of employment.

Secret Santa
Secret Santa and other forms of gift giving in the workplace need some thought during the current cost of living crisis. If some of your staff are struggling financially, then the burden of buying one more gift at a time when they are struggling to buy gifts for their kids as well as paying the ever-increasing fuel bills, may be a step too far. So if you are thinking of introducing such a scheme, consider consulting your staff first. It may be that you can fund Secret Santa, so that everyone receives a small gift without being out of pocket.

The other factor to consider with anonymous gift giving is the potential for malice from someone who is selected to provide a gift to someone they don’t like. This can open the door for passive-aggressive point scoring! If you have a team that isn’t gelling on very well, then Secret Santa may not be ideal, and you may be better off having a more lucky dip approach.

Gifts and Hospitality
On the subject of gift giving, Christmas is the time of year when it is not unusual for clients and suppliers to give each other gifts. Many of you will have policies covering the giving and receiving of gifts and hospitality, in order to comply with the Bribery Act. It may be timely, therefore, to review the policy and to let staff know what is expected of them in that regard.

If you need any support with any of the matters raised here, please do contact us.

National Minimum and Living Wage
The current National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates are:

  • £9.50 per hour for workers aged 23 and over
  • £9.18 per hour for workers aged 21 to 22
  • £6.83 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20
  • £4.81 per hour for workers aged 16 and 17
  • £4.81 per hour for apprentices under 19 and those over 19 in their first year*

*N.B. Apprentices over 19 and who have completed at least one year are entitled to the appropriate rate for their age.