Brussels Christmas MarketI love Christmas! Absolutely, utterly love it. As my friends and family will tell you, I’m the guy with the Christmas countdown app on my iPhone, the colleague who hangs obscene amounts of tinsel and Christmas paraphernalia around my desk and, every year in September, start googling Christmas Market trips in Europe (last year was Brussels, which is highly recommended!)

Surprisingly, however, it isn’t the quirky number of 123 days to go which has prompted this blog. Rather, it was a recent news article on the BBC News website entitled “Forget summer, it’s time to preare for Christmas” – a link can be found here. The article is mostly about employers preparing their product range for Christmas but, from an employment law perspective, it made me think about the ways in which businesses also need to manage personnel and policies to ensure an effective, stress-free Christmas period.

I’d be missing a clear open goal if I didn’t use Santa as my example employer here. So, here we go, let’s get some pre-planning in place to get Santa ready for Christmas!

(1) Ensure the elves aren’t on holiday during December!

Obviously, December is peak operating month for Santa. Increased demand, upcoming deadlines and the need to have everything ready for those last-minute deliveries on Christmas Eve… Put simply, Santa needs all hands on decking the halls (sorry!). So imagine his disappointment when he realises that three of his key elves have validly booked holidays of at least 1 week each during December! Santa’s HR Team have reason to fear the naughty list!

The solution? Ensure Contracts contain clauses preventing annual leave during December and/or have a Holiday Policy in place stating that annual leave will only be granted in December in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Additionally, ensure the HR Team and/or Line Managers restrict annual leave requests in December to reasonable levels.

(2) Prevent confidential information concerning his new range of presents being leaked!

Santa’s in the product business. If he gave rubbish presents, he’d have no fans. Obviously, his workforce has a lot of experience of getting things right and getting children and adults alike the ‘new big thing’. But what prevents Papa Elf taking advantage of the newly-installed wi-fi in Santa’s Workshop and sharing these new present designs on his new-fangled Twitter account?

Thankfully, Santa has introduced a Social Media policy making clear that any posting of information online (or by any other means) to third parties outside the North Pole is a disciplinary offence which, in certain circumstances, could constitute Gross Misconduct. Therefore, Papa Elf decides against unvealing Christmas 2017’s biggest hit present and, instead, decides to hit the ale with Rudolph.

(3) Ensure performance isn’t affected by Christmas period festivities!

Unfortunately, Papa Elf didn’t fare well for his night out with Rudolph; neither did Rudolph for that matter. Whilst Santa is willing to give leeway for the day after the Christmas party, he can’t tolerate employee nights out indulging in too much Christmas spirit (sorry!) as it affects productivity and breaches ‘Elf and Safety’ rules (sorry again!).

What can Santa do? Well, if needed, he can send out an internal memo in the run-up to December warning that employees worse for wear will be sent home without pay and/or he can provide an informal warning or formal written warnings to those unfit for work due to the night before. Done correctly, Santa’s employees should realise that absence due to the night before is snow joke (that was berry funny, surely?)

(4) Prevent terrible Secret Santa presents!

Santa is the original and the best. Nothing proves this better than most Secret Santa gifts. In saying this, I admit a previous colleague bought me a book on blogging (well played Carly!) but, for the most part, they’re pretty girm. However, some colleagues go too far and, this year, Santa is struggling to manage the onslaught of employee complaints and grievances due to receipt of the following from fellow elves:

  • diet books;
  • mistletoe;
  • deodorant;
  • dating website subscription (why? just why?); and
  • anything from a certain store containing the words ‘Summers’ and ‘Ann’ (there is already one every year)!

How to avoid this? Ban Secret Santa? Write a policy? Nope. Simply send out an internal memo (or have a group meeting) before everyone goes out to buy presents and warn that any presents found to be inappropriate could result in formal action so, if in doubt, play it safe. It’s boring but necessary and avoids workplace fallings out and Santa being sued for allowing workplace discrimination on grounds of age, race, religion or belief, nationality, disability, gender, sexual orientation or marriage/civil partnership.

So, there are just a few things to think about now. Obviously, policies and contract terms take time to draw up and implement, so it’s best to start thinking about them now.

Thinking about it, it’s probably time to end this blog as we’ve probably reached the point where you’re wondering if I can ‘carol on’ much longer and where further jokes risk a frosty reception!

Thankfully, contrary to the articles of a certain newspaper (which I won’t name!) employment law and HR doesn’t ban Christmas. Not even remotely. Christmas parties, Christmas decorations, cards and Secret Santa are all very much allowed (albeit some require discreet ‘common sense’ discussions upfront). It’s just a shame we have to wait so long for Christmas to arrive! #123daysandcounting