5 ways for your business to be HR ready for Christmas
As always, Christmas is creeping up on us fast. Before you know it, you have a long list of urgent matters to deal with before the end of the year. So why not take a moment to get a few HR matters out of the way early to make sure you are ready for Christmas?
1. Annual Leave – how will your staffing levels look?
Have you looked at your leave planner to see who will be available to work over the Christmas period? Or is annual leave something that your employees usually apply for last minute?
October is an excellent time to get ready for Christmas by asking employees if they are planning to take annual leave over the Christmas and New Year period. Addressing this now gives you plenty of time to manage rosters and make sure you are not left undermanned because your managers have accidentally approved too many people to go on leave at the same time.
Let your employees know that it is first in, first-served when it comes to annual leave, and unless they get it approved in advance, they risk having their request knocked back.
2. Will you be ready for Christmas shutdown?
Speaking of leave, some businesses choose to have an enforced shutdown over the Christmas period. Whether it will be the days between Christmas and New Years, or a more extended break due to industry shutdowns, you need to give employees reasonable notice.
Many awards require a minimum of two months notice in writing to be given to employees when you are having a shutdown period, and you are expecting employees to use their annual leave to cover this time.
Don’t leave it to the last minute. You can include a note with the payslips or send out a memo or email. Be clear on what days during this period will be annual leave and which days will be public holidays.
Have a conversation with any employees that will not have enough annual leave accrued to cover the shutdown period as they may need to take leave without pay and will need to plan for this. If it is only a day or two they are short, you can decide to allow their leave balance to go into arrears. I would recommend that you just make this decision on a case by case basis as I have seen instances where an employee has resigned and left the employer short.
3. Public Holidays for Christmas 2020/21
Remember that in Victoria, the following Public Holidays apply for the remainder of 2020 and early next year. Note that there may be differences in other states or regional areas.
- AFL Grand Final – Friday 23rd October 2020
- Melbourne Cup – Tuesday 3rd November 2020
- Christmas Day – Friday 25th December 2020
- Boxing Day – Saturday 26th December 2020 (as this falls on a weekend, Monday 28th December will be an additional public holiday)
- New Years Day – Friday 1st January 2021
- Tuesday 26th January 2021
If you are trading over this time, such as in retail or hospitality, you need to ensure you understand the restrictions on trading on these days. You may want to look at the costs of penalty rates to make sure it is worth opening at all. The earlier you make these decisions, the more notice you can give staff on rosters.
When it comes to rostering staff on Public Holidays, it is often worth asking who wants to work first. Some employees would choose to get additional pay than spending Boxing Day with their family! If you are lucky, you may be able to set up a roster where everyone is happy.
4. The Christmas Party Minefield
Christmas parties are always a contentious issue. If it is safe to have one in line with local restrictions, when will you have it? Who will organise it? Who will pay? Now is the time to start to make these decisions if you haven’t already. If you are not going to be able to have a Christmas party this year, will you do something else to celebrate the end of what has been a challenging year?
Christmas time can be fun for everyone at work, but it can be a risk when it comes to managing unacceptable employee conduct after someone has a few drinks too many. Remind your staff that workplace policies on behaviour apply at all work-related functions, even if they are held off-site. A timely email reminder leading up to the Christmas party is a great idea. And if you haven’t conducted any training on Workplace Bullying and Harassment for a while, now may be the time to schedule some.
Always make sure that work functions are more than just drinks. Serve food and be clear about the start and end time. If staff want to keep the party going after the official festivities, encourage them to move to a new location. Consider organising transport to make sure everyone arrives home safely.
Finally, if you hear that there may have been an incident at a work function, don’t be complacent. Even if it was after employees had moved to a new venue. Small issues at after-hours gatherings can turn into big headaches for managers in the new year.
5. What are your people plans for 2021?
Don’t wait until the New Year to look at your workforce plan. While December/January are traditionally not ideal times to recruit, February is an excellent time to source new talent.
Are there new projects kicking off in the New Year? You may need to get onto recruiting for those roles now. The recruitment process may take a few weeks, and many candidates will need to give notice. If you leave it to late, you may not have them ready to start in January.
Prepare to kick-off the new year by planning what roles you will be looking to recruit, and how you plan to fill them. You will thank yourself when you get back to the office in 2021.
If that all seems daunting, don’t despair. At Strawberry Seed Consulting we have a range of HR Services to assist or provide more detailed advice specific to your business to get you ready for Christmas.
Updated: October 2020