a fresh perspective

Fraser Tait

Christmas Parties #minefield

“It’s Christmas!!”

The time has come to let down your hair, relax and enjoy the company of friends and colleagues at the annual party.

Quite right too!

office-party-christmas

It’s a time to reward and be rewarded for a year of productivity, professionalism and good practice.

Christmas parties can be an occasion to see the friendly, social side of colleagues away from the hustle and bustle of work; a time to connect as people, not just fellow workers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing a passion for sport, movies, books, dogs or whatever with the MD or the office junior over a glass of red wine.

Good relations with one another will often make for improved performance at work. They are the oil that keeps everything moving in any workplace.

However, Christmas parties are not the occasions on which to air your grievances, make romantic approaches or tell anyone what you really think of them. If the manager asks you what you want to drink, do not reply “I dinna like you” as one former colleague did, before being gently escorted home.

Words spoken and deeds done at workplace social occasions can have long lasting consequences for all concerned.  You could end up celebrating the New Year by looking for a new job.   In the most serious cases they can result in a visit to a police cell or hospital bed.

Even if Christmas parties are held outwith the workplace, employees are still expected to behave in an appropriate and considerate manner to each other and those round about them. If an employee’s behaviour reflects badly on the business then it is entirely appropriate to take disciplinary action. Where bad behaviour is public, it is often essential that an employer is seen to take action.

Consequences

end-of-office-christmas-party

People have been racist, homophobic, sexist and violent at Christmas parties. Consequences are unavoidable and often serious. People have been seriously injured once drink has been consumed and common sense has evaporated: losing your job is the least of your worries when the police have charged you and a prison sentence looms.

Our advice to everyone is – enjoy the party, be sensible and look forward to returning to work without embarrassment or worry. If you are an employer, don’t overreact to anything minor said or done in the heat of the moment. Equally, however, some behaviour will require to be addressed, even informally.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year from all at Falkirk Employment Law.

Are you a good sport?

Are you a good sport?

21.06.16 Photo football

As an employer you are definitely not obliged to allow time off for any major sporting event but a blanket refusal may be counterproductive. Could this be an opportunity to improve employee engagement and productivity?

Whether you are an avid football fan or not, it is impossible to escape the fact that the UEFA European Championships are currently taking place across France. This month long tournament is set to dominate our screens until the 10th July and the kick off times of the 51 matches will vary between 2pm and 8pm.

Even though our own national team are not making the journey, there is of course still a huge amount of interest in watching the other home nations take part from fans north of the Border. But whether it’s the Euros, Wimbledon or even the Olympics, giant sporting competitions like this do create an immense amount of excitement and it would be very naïve to think that this has no impact on the workplace. As an employer you are not obliged to allow time off for any major sporting event but a blanket refusal may in fact be counterproductive.

The main issues which will undoubtedly affect employers will be around requests for annual leave, sickness absence and the use of internet and social media use during working hours and you need to be ready to answer and deal with the following questions:

Managing attendance

Do you conduct regular return to work discussions with your employees? This may deter employees from taking unwarranted sickness absence.

Holidays and time off policy

Is your company policy clear about how much notice is required for annual leave to be taken and when employees cannot take leave?

Disciplinary action

Do your employees understand that sudden absences during events may be treated with disciplinary action?

Communication

What is the best way for employers and employees to talk to each other, is it team meetings, intranet sites, emails or a combination of these methods?

Social media and the internet

It is extremely likely that there will be an increase in the use of Facebook and Twitter as well as   an increase in website usage during this type of major event. How do you manage and control this?

Alcohol Policy

You might have a strict no drinking at work policy, but how do you manage employees who come in to work hung-over?

Flexible working

Are you fully aware of how the different systems for flexible working operate?

With all of these issues in mind it is certainly worth looking at some useful guidelines which you should try to follow as an employer.

Have agreements in place

Overall, flexibility from both employers and employees throughout this type of event is key to running a productive business with an engaged workforce. Before the start of any major sporting event, it is always best to have agreements in place regarding issues such as time off, sickness leave or even watching television during these events.

By working together, employers and employees can understand each other’s needs better, but in busy times a more flexible approach such as flexible working hours and annual leave may not always be possible because the employer will need employees to maintain a certain level of output.

Annual leave

Your annual leave policy should provide guidance as to how employees should book time off. Employers may wish to look at being more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period, with the understanding that this will be temporary arrangement and employees should remember that special arrangements may not always be possible. The key is for both parties to try and come to an agreement.

All leave requests should be considered fairly by employers and a consistent approach taken to other major sporting events in granting leave, remember not everyone loves football!

Sickness absence

Your company’s sickness policy will of course still apply during these periods and these policies should be operated fairly and consistently for all employees. Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the attendance policy and any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could result in formal proceedings. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness, late attendance or lower levels of performance at work due to post event celebrations.

Flexible working

One option that is well worth considering is to have a more flexible working day, when employees could come in a little later or finish sooner and then agree when this time can be made up. Employers could also allow staff to swap shifts with the Manager’s permission or allow staff to take a break during match times. Allowing employees to listen to the radio or watch television may be another possible option.

Overall it is important to be fair and consistent with all staff if you allow additional benefits during major events and any change in the flexibility of working hours should always be approved before the event takes place.

Use of social media and the internet

There may of course be an increase in the use of social networking sites or sporting websites during these events and this can lead to problems around staff watching lengthy coverage via their computers or personal devices. Employers should have a clear policy regarding the use of the internet in the workplace and the policy should be communicated to all employees. If you choose to monitor internet usage then the data protection regulations require you to make it clear that it is happening to all employees. Again a web use policy should make clear what is and what is not acceptable usage.

Drinking or being under the influence at work

Some people may like to participate in a drink or two while watching a match or even may go to the pub to watch a game live. But it is important to remember that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence in the workplace could be subject to strict disciplinary procedures. There may be a clear no alcohol policy at work but employees may need to be reminded of this in advance.

IN SUMMARY

There is a growing recognition of the importance of individual wellbeing both inside and outside the workplace. In an attempt to get the very best out of their organisation, many employers are now choosing to adopt practices which will increase the wellbeing of their staff and as a result improve their workplace performance.

Of course many businesses do need to maintain a certain staffing level to operate and survive but by having a set of clear workplace agreements in place during major events, this can help to ensure that businesses remain productive whilst keeping staff happy too. By having policies in place in advance and by taking a more flexible approach to the working day can enable your staff to understand what is and is not acceptable behaviour or an unreasonable request, but at the same time can make them feel much more valued and happy too.

Whatever the sport or event, we hope that this article ensures that you get the best out of your team and that it helps you to avoid any unplanned bookings!

 

 

 

Falkirk Employment Law
6 Park Street, Falkirk
FK1 1RE
T: 01324 430200