Helen Burgess: It’s a good idea to plan festive reward strategies early

People are starting to talk about Christmas, so it’s a good idea to think about a festive strategy now.

Requests for leave

If an organisation’s holiday year runs to the end of the calendar year, it should remind employees to book and use their holiday entitlement to avoid a last-minute rush for requests and crossover issues. If it does not allow staff to carry forward unused entitlement, they should be reminded that they should “use it or lose it”.

If a business does not shut down over the festive period, guidance should be provided as to how requests for time off will be granted. It is usual to do this on a first-come, first-served basis, while remembering that there may be some circumstances where an employer may need to deviate from this, for example, where employees request annual leave for religious observance.

Equally, if an organisation requires employees to save holiday for shutdown during the festive period, it should remind them now. This means that if, for any reason, an individual objects to taking holiday over the festive period the employer has enough time to serve notice requiring them to take the leave. The notice given must be double the amount of time that it wants the employee to take off.


Employers should consider presenting employees with ‘end of year thank you‘ presents as an inclusive approach. It is also sensible to circulate guidance to employees regarding giving gifts to colleagues; making it clear that they should be respectful and inoffensive, particularly Secret Santa.

If it is usual for employees to receive gifts from suppliers and customers, a gentle reminder about the organisation’s receiving gifts and bribery policy is encouraged.

Festive parties

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Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees at work-related events. Consider undertaking a risk assessment and communicating with staff in advance the behaviour expected and that disciplinary process will be followed if necessary. Employers should consider their position at these events on alcohol, such as limiting the number of drinks and providing plenty of non-alcoholic options to minimise incidents and ensure an inclusive approach.

Helen Burgess is a partner within the employment team at Shoosmiths LLP