Employment and HR law specialist Connie Jim, of Stones Solicitors LLP in Exeter, outlines some issues businesses need to consider to make sure the festive period is a time to enjoy for staff and employers
AS the festive period approaches, many employers will be looking at either extending business hours to deal with the increased volume of customers, or at closing down their businesses and asking staff to take this time off work as holiday.
As an employer you may also be faced with a deluge of holiday requests from employees looking to spend quality time with family.
So, as an employer what should you be doing?
Can you ask staff to work extra hours, take their holiday only on specific dates or even refuse an employee's holiday request?
How can you avoid staff becoming disgruntled when your business only has the capacity to allow a certain number of staff to take their holiday over the festive period?
Employees are legally entitled to 28 days leave each year. However, when that holiday may be taken is largely at the discretion of the employer and will be dependent on the needs of the business.
The Working Time Regulations which provide the right to holiday stipulate the process that must be followed with regard to requests for leave or holiday.
In short, the employee must first notify their employer of the holiday request and the employer may then accept or decline the request.
This process may be varied by an employee's contract of employment or by any other agreement in place, such as the employer's own holiday policies and procedures.
As an employer you should therefore review your holiday policy in advance and if necessary (and where possible) make changes to it.
To avoid disputes and uncertainty you should agree and adopt a clear strategy and communicate this in advance to all staff.
For example, are holiday requests going to be dealt with on a first come first served basis, or will it be dependent on who had time off last year, or will it be dealt with by way of a lottery?
Employers should be as fair as possible when making decisions.
Apart from the statutory holiday entitlement detailed above, there is no general right for a worker to have bank or public holidays off work. So, whether or not an employee can take bank holidays off over the Christmas period will depend on their contractual terms.
There is no statutory right to enhanced rates of pay if a worker works on a bank or public holiday. However, this may have been agreed in a contract so you will need to check.
You must also be careful to ensure that if the public or bank holiday worked is part of an employee's basic statutory holiday entitlement, the worker is provided with alternative holiday during that employment year.
In the absence of any contractual terms, an employer needs to give notice that is twice the period of leave requested. So, if you wish to close the business for a week, you must give at least two weeks' notice.
However, if an employee does not have any remaining holiday to take and you insist on closing, you may find that you end up having to pay staff full pay for the period of closure, unless they have a lay-off clause in the contract.
By communicating your thoughts to all staff early and making arrangements as far as possible in advance, you can avoid any confusion and both the company and staff can make plans and enjoy the festive period.
If you are unsure about any aspect of your legal responsibilities regarding your employees and operating around the festive period, take advice from your HR law advisor.