December 18, 2015

Christmas in the Workplace

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

Christmas in the workplace

With the festive season well and truly upon us, there are a number of employment law issues which are more specific to this period.  An overview of the most common issues that tend to arise during this period are highlighted below.

Christmas parties

It is widely accepted that a Christmas get-together of some sort is good for staff morale.  It is a chance to really connect with your colleagues – who after all we all spend a great deal of time with.  However, a gentle reminder to staff about what is expected of them on such social events is certainly advisable, especially where there is no specific policy in place otherwise.  Whilst employers may not want to come across too “Bah humbug”, a  short statement on the email invite to staff reminding them that they are still representing the company, that excess alcohol should be avoided and that appropriate behaviour is still required, should set the benchmark for an enjoyable evening for all.

Any misconduct that does occur at the Christmas party will need to be dealt with under the disciplinary proceedings.  However, instances such as dismissing an employee who was involved in an altercation after the Christmas party has been held to be fair in the past.


If employees call in sick after the Christmas party, this too should be dealt with as normal under the usual sickness procedures.  It is an employee’s duty to ensure they are fit for work, no matter the reason.  Similarly, lateness can be dealt with under the disciplinary procedures, or, depending on the terms of your contract, employers may be able to dock pay from employees who are late.


At this time of year everyone wants time off and many employers find they are inundated with last minute holiday requests.  However, holiday rules at this time of year are no different to any other.  An employee requesting leave must give notice as per the contract or holiday policy or, if none exists, they must give notice of at least double the length of time as they intend to take.  Best practice for employers is to grant leave on a first come first served basis. Employers have the right to refuse leave (at that specific requested time) if it is for business reasons – and needing at least one person in the office for each department for instance is such a valid reason.

If the business is open throughout the Christmas period, unless the contract states otherwise, employees are not entitled to bank holidays off by law. Neither are employees entitled to double or increased pay.  But generally speaking employers will want to be as reasonable as possible without adversely affecting the business.

Whatever the decisions made by an employer surrounding Christmas opening, holidays or even Christmas bonuses, it is crucial that it is applied evenly and fairly to all employees.


Ilinca Mardarescu