December is a month of unique HR challenges. In the build up to Christmas, staff can fall into bad habits that disrupt the flow of the typical workday. While there is always be some room for festivities around this time, it’s important you set boundaries to avoid major disruptions.
In this article, we pose and answer some of the questions our HR advisors are frequently asked during this period. If you need tailored advice, you can speak to an expert today by calling 01455 858 132.
Christmas HR Q&A
Q: What do I need to know when hiring seasonal workers?
A: Having extra staff during busy periods can help lighten the load, but you must make sure your hiring practices are in line with employment law.
Seasonal workers can be hired on a fixed-term contract for an agreed period. This period can come to an end on a specific date, or at the completion of a project. Temporary employees enjoy the same rights as full time staff when it comes to working conditions and benefits. They should receive the same rate of pay and holiday entitlement (pro-rated) as employees in a comparable role.
What is a comparable role?
In this instance, it would be an employee who is not on a fixed-term contract. They would be employed by the same employer, in the same organisation, and be undertaking the same or similar role.
Temporary staff also have the right to be provided with information on permanent vacancies within your business.
Seasonal workers must be provided with a contract of employment. A statement of main terms needs to be provided by the first day they begin their role. The contract itself will be very similar to the full time contract, with a couple of notable exceptions:
- Include the end date of the contract, or details of when the project is considered to be complete
- Provide details on notice to be given if the contract is to be terminated prior to the end date or completion of the project. Temporary employees two years continuous service have the same unfair dismissal rights as permanent employees.
Q: What do I do if I hire seasonal workers, but I have no work for them?
A: Ideally, if you’re unsure how much work will be available for the employee, you should hire them on zero hour contract, and make this clear from the outset. This means you’re not guaranteeing a set number of hours and staff will only be paid for the hours they work. This gives you the flexibility you need to make sure work is covered but you aren’t caught in a bind when work is unavailable. However, bear in mind that a zero hour contract is permanent, whereas a fixed term contract is temporary.
If you have already hired an employee on a temporary basis, and now find you don’t have work for them, you need to consider your options.
If their contract stipulates employment until a certain date, you could place staff on temporary lay-off. However, you’ll need a contractual right to do this, you must make sure that no work is available and that there are no alternative options. There is no time limit on how long an employee can be laid off, but if the lay-off lasts longer than four consecutive weeks, they may apply for redundancy.
While seasonal staff won’t enjoy the protections enjoyed by those working two years or more, they are still protected against discrimination in the workplace. If handled incorrectly, a claim could still be raised against you for this reason. To ensure that doesn’t happen, seek external advice by calling 01455 858 132 and speaking to an HR expert today.
Q: When is a gift from a client or business partner considered bribery?
A: A gift in a workplace setting doesn’t always constitute bribery. It is only considered bribery if the intention of the gift is to induce or reward impropriety.
Gifts for hard work, or to thank clients, is unlikely to stray into this territory. In other words, it’s less about the gift itself, but the intention and context behind it. If you are offered a gift in exchange for a discount on goods or services, then this could raise concerns.
It can be difficult to identify when this happens, particularly if the gift-giving occurs outside of the organisation. One method to combat this is to have a procedure which handles gift-giving. This way, you can make a record of what has been given, and include details such as value, sender, and the connection between parties.
Remind staff of bribery laws and any anti-bribery policies you have in place. Where bribery does occur, make sure you deal with it in line with your policies. It is not unreasonable to pursue a disciplinary in these cases, if the facts of the case demand it.
Q: A staff member is online shopping during their work hours – what do I do?
A: This depends largely on your workplace culture and attitudes. You may not be bothered by the odd bit of browsing here and there. However, if it is starting to affect productivity, then you can taken action. Ultimately, the workplace is for work, so you can pursue disciplinary action if the need arises. However, try addressing the issue informally at first.
If you have concerns around this area, it’s worth developing an IT policy. This will outline what is appropriate usage of company and personal computers, phones, and internet in the workpalce. This will set out clear standards and expectations for staff. Then, if an employee breaches these standards, you have documentation to fall back on and support you.
There is a precedent for dismissal when an employee has spent work hours shopping. However, this is only in extreme circumstances. For isolated incidents of online shopping, it’s worth dealing with them informally at first, then pursuing disciplinary action if the problem persists.
Q: An employee is having parcels delivered to work – can I stop them from doing this?
A: There are a few reasons why having personal post delivered to the workplace is an issue. Time spent managing and opening parcels is time the employee is not working. This is fine for the odd parcel here and there, but too much will cause a big distraction. Also, since it’s illegal to open post that’s not address to you, it’s tough to stop any dangerous or illegal items from entering your company.
So, can you put an end to it?
The short answer is yes—if you have a mail policy that clearly states that this is unacceptable. Realistically, your policy should allow for some flexibility, while putting rules in place to reduce the risk of productivity loss and liability.
If you outright ban personal mail, then you should suggest alternative options available to employees.
If you don’t ban personal mail, then you should outline the process for handling deliveries and what is expected of the employee. In some cases, the organisation might need to scan or screen incoming parcels.
Your Christmas question not in the list above?
Let us know what you are struggling with during the festive season, and we’ll have an advisor on standby to help.
Christmas is a melting pot of HR issues, from conduct and contracts to pay and leave entitlements. We can help you navigate them all so you can have a stress-free holiday.
Speak to one of our HR experts today and receive free initial advice on your issue by calling 01455 858 132.
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