As winter sets in, the Christmas decorations are on the shelves and we’re in the midst of another festive season. This time of year brings with it a unique cocktail of HR issues so the purpose of this article is to forearm employers with some information to consider before the Christmas songs take over the airwaves!
If you need to hire seasonal employees, ensure that they are given a Contract of Employment which confirms their status to them. The style of contract that you give such recruits will generally be of a fixed term or specified purpose nature, meaning that they are hired specifically for the Christmas period and there is clarity on their end date from the outset. One critical factor with temporary staff, especially in the hardware and builders merchant fields, is not to avoid induction, safety and manual handling training just because they are short-term employees. The very fact that they are only getting temporary work from the employer would make it more important that they are not bypassed for basic training on how to stay safe. This is essential to avoid workplace injuries, costs and consequent legal actions.
A party night at the end of the year was one of the first sacrifices of the recent recession. If an organisation was challenged financially and seeking wage cuts or redundancies, it was not seen as reasonable to continue with such celebratory events. The department secretly delighted with such news was HR. An employer liability to its employees does not stop at the front door of the
workplace. If an employer plans and organises a staff night out over the Christmas period then they could be responsible and liable for the actions of employees on this night.
Claims of sexual harassment, bullying or assault can, and do, arise from these events. Ensure employees are aware that the behavioural expectations you have of them in the workplace extend to work-related events. If you are considering reintroducing such an evening to your social committee diary, we would suggest that you review any documentation or policies (e.g., sexual harassment and bullying) to ensure that they:
I also recommend you produce a communication to all employees prior to the event reminding them of behavioural expectations and that dignity, respect and acceptable conduct extend to the event!
Social networking sites allow the thoughts and opinions of employees to be shared publicly with their friends and family but also create the possibility of their posts being ‘liked’ by, or ‘shared’ with, a wider audience. People will post opinions on most elements of their life and this includes how they feel about their employer and/or work colleagues. At this festively lubricated time of the year, a well prepared social networking policy may alert employees to:
It is accepted that most people may be more susceptible to illness during the winter months but absenteeism does appear to mysteriously spike at Christmas. As this time of year can be a critical one for so many organisations, it is recommended that employers ensure they have clarity in their policies and procedures on the reporting of sick days, entitlement to sick pay (if any), referrals to the company doctor, return to work meetings etc. Also make sure that all your line managers are aware of the allowable annual leave slots at this time of the year (if any) to ensure that as many
employees are available for the roster as possible.
Merry Christmas, and a prosperous season to all at Hardware Association Ireland and their Members from Tom Smyth & Associates.
Tom Smyth is Managing Director of Tom Smyth & Associates, a HR consultancy, established in 1991, that, in association with HAI, gives Irish employers practical advice on HR, industrial relations and employment law issues.
This Business Support article featured in the November/December 2015 edition of The Hardware Journal.