Another year draws to a close. From the perspective of autumn 2021, the upcoming Christmas agenda of relaxed meetings, street markets, works get-togethers and mince pie overload may look like a bottomless barrel of laughs.

But HR professionals often have a hard time of it at Christmas. Things won’t look so rosy in the Personnel Dept. if winter bugs and seasonal excesses have prompted a spate of unexpected sickies, or your entire sales team has turned up to work half-cut.

We’ve distilled several decades of HR experience to bring you LeavePlanner’s Christmas Survival Kit.

Set the ground rules

To minimise misunderstanding, communicate your expectations to staff clearly and early. (Mid-November is a good time.) If you already have a formal holiday policy in place, this is your chance to remind your team about minimum staffing levels, mandatory holiday-free ‘blackout days’, and ‘closed for business’ periods.

The objective isn’t to steamroller them into submission, but to encourage them to plan ahead and collaborate with you and with each other to ensure full coverage.

Make it clear that, regardless of time of year, ‘pulling a sickie’ isn’t an acceptable tactic for getting time off.

Dealing with the scrum

Everyone wants time off at Christmas. HR pros take note! The best and easiest way to manage Christmas holiday requests is to tie them to midsummer break allocations. An employee who wants their Christmas holiday request to be given high priority should expect to be further down the list in August, and vice versa. (LeavePlanner’s software is a great help in organising such a system.)

But, even if you’ve inherited a more chaotic arrangement, it’s not too late to get things under control. You might set limits on the number of days of leave an employee may take at any one time. Or you might introduce the previously-mentioned ‘blackout dates’, mission-critical days on which no one can take a holiday.

Just remember to check the small print of your employment contracts and the general provisions of the Working Time Regulations before you start laying down the law.

Against ‘sickies’

As we’ve indicated, ‘pulling a sickie’ is more likely at Christmas than at any other time of the year. If you suspect that a staff member is taking unauthorised festive leave-of-absence, consider scheduling a ‘return to work’ interview before allowing them to resume their duties. It’s a great deterrent…and, remember, you’re within your rights to ask for medical evidence!

Be generous

There’s no formal provision in UK law for employees to receive extra pay throughout the festive season, but ‘time-and-a-half’ can certainly incentivise staff not to disappear just when you need them most (provided your budget will stretch).

Join in!

Make sure the office is a fun place to work! Little gestures are important. Send around a sweet trolley at lunchtime, hire an interior decorator for a Christmas theme, organise a Secret Santa exchange…if your employees feel they’re part of a family, they’ll be less likely to bunk off.

…and use LeavePlanner

LeavePlanner’s absence management software is a boon at any time of year, but it’s particularly useful when dealing with the issues set out above. A free, 30-day trial starting now will almost get you through the festive season. What are you waiting for?

For any queries, call Steve on 01252 636 070 or email