12 Yays of Christmas: the top HR and Health & Safety gifts for you

  • Business Advice
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

The winter season is meant to be a time for getting merry and spending time with loved ones. But without any rules or regulations, happy festivities turn into the nightmare before Christmas…

So to avoid any mishaps, here are your 12 festive HR and H&S must-haves to stay out of icy territory…

On the first day of Christmas, HR gave to me…appreciation of religious and cultural differences

It’s important to remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas in the same way – or even at all.

So, be mindful of this when you’re jotting down dates for Secret Santa, Christmas Jumper Day, and decorating. You may have employees who don’t celebrate Christmas or observe different religious celebrations. And you don’t want them to feel excluded from your events.

Make sure you’re aware and considerate of other cultural celebrations your staff may observe. This will help you to prevent the risk of facing any potential religious discrimination claims.

For staff who observe other faiths, invite them to weave in their own decorations and traditions at work. Turn your workplace into a space that welcomes everyone to celebrate.

On the second day of Christmas, HR gave to me…inclusive Christmas party tips

As a work event, your Christmas party should be inclusive of everyone too. This means making sure you have lots of non-alcoholic options for those who choose not to drink. You should also have suitable food options for those with specific dietary requirements.

Taking steps to take into account individual preferences will help you make sure no one feels left out of the fun.

On the third day of Christmas, Health & Safety gave to me…safe workplace decorating

It’s traditional to spread festive joy by putting up decorations in the run up to Christmas. But take care - climbing up ladders to hang tinsel could end in disaster.

So before taking any risks, you should check your Health & Safety processes are as robust and tough as your nutcrackers.

To reduce the risk of accidents happening, make sure:

  • Your ladders are safe and there are no signs of damage.
  • Ladder climbing is a two-person job (i.e. one person climbs, while the other spots).
  • There are no decorations hanging in places that could mess with electrical fittings.
  • Decorations aren’t a fire risk if they’re placed close to radiators or electrical heaters.
  • There’s no fraying or damage to the wiring of your Christmas lights – especially if you’ve had them for some time or they’re second-hand.
  • You don’t overload plug sockets – if you’re using a bar adapter, check you’re not exceeding 13 amps of current.
  • You use cable ties to keep the wiring from causing slips and trips.

On the fourth day of Christmas, HR gave to me…clear boundaries around Secret Santa

The workplace Secret Santa is supposed to be a fun activity for all employees to exchange festive gifts. But one person’s idea of a nice or light-hearted gesture could end in discrimination claims and torn staff relations if you’re not careful.

It’s important to remind staff to buy gifts that are suitable for work. So, anything like lingerie or sexually suggestive gifts should sit firmly on the banned list.

Staff should even be mindful of sending what they think is a ‘jokey’ gift. Because what one employee sees as a joke could actually be seen as discriminatory or even bullying by another employee.

For example, giving a colleague a gift that leaves them feeling upset and victimised can give way to costly claims. Even a gift like deodorant could go down badly if an employee takes it the wrong way.

So, actively encourage staff to refrain from giving out gifts that relate to personal characteristics. For example, gifts that relate to religion, age or appearance.

You may want to establish some ground rules and guidance around appropriate gift-giving in advance. You could even email out suggestions to help employees choose suitable gifts.

On the fifth day of Christmas, HR gave to me…a workplace relationship policy

It might start with whispers around the coffee machine the day after the Christmas party. This, combined with an awkward atmosphere, could ring alarm bells.

A case of kissing colleagues under the mistletoe could open up huge issues for you. Inappropriate conduct. Conflicts of interest.

You might think a personal relationship isn’t your business – but it may cause issues if left unchecked. So, it’s important to set boundaries around workplace relationships with a relationship policy.

Your policy might outline:

  • Any relationships that are not allowed (perhaps one between a senior manager and employee).
  • The need for employees to disclose a relationship with a colleague.
  • The need for certain employees to change job positions within the company if they enter a relationship with a colleague.

While you don’t have to ban relationships, you can still establish boundaries. It’s easy for personal issues to trickle into workplace discussions. And if there’s a cheating accusation involved, this can cause even more trouble for staff relations.

It’s why it’s important to remind staff what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour at work. By making sure staff are clear on those boundaries, it can help prevent relationship issues from wreaking havoc on work time.

On the sixth day of Christmas, HR gave me…a Christmas bonus (maybe)

Giving staff a Christmas bonus is a thoughtful gesture – and one that many businesses like to make. But issues might pop up if bonus expectations aren’t clear.

Your employees may be hopeful they’ll receive a bonus before the year is out. But you should know that you don’t have to hand them out unless you want to - or unless it’s written in your employment contracts.

If you don’t want to give out bonuses but you’re contractually obligated, you would need to amend your contracts. You would then need your employee agree to the change.

On the seventh day of Christmas, HR gave to me…a robust holiday policy

If your business doesn’t close down over Christmas, you may already have an influx of annual leave requests to deal with.

Around the festive period, staff are more likely to want time off. Whether that’s to be with family and friends, do Christmas shopping, and generally enjoy the celebrations.

But of course, not everyone can take time off at the same time – or you’d be left severely understaffed.

That’s when a robust holiday policy becomes essential. In your holiday policy, you should outline how you deal with holiday requests – whether that’s on a first-come first-serve basis or not.

Christmas might be a very demanding time of year for you. So, you might not allow employees to take leave around certain times during the festive period. As long as this is written in your staff contracts, you can enforce this.

And if you do have a lot of employees wanting time off, you should follow the rules in your holiday policy for accepting and rejecting requests. Having a policy also backs you up if you do have to reject a request, so your employee understands the reason why (i.e. too many people are off that day already). So, they can’t accuse you of showing favouritism to anyone or acting unfairly.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Health & Safety gave to me… mental health support

During the winter months, some people suffer with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The NHS defines this disorder as “a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern”. The key symptoms include a persistent low mood and difficulty concentrating.

Sometimes, the festive period can bring lots of downs as well as ups. And this isn’t made any easier for employees who are travelling to and from work in darkness.

If any of your employees are affected by SAD, they might struggle with symptoms at work. So, it’s important to make sure your employees feel supported enough to speak up if they are struggling.

Remind staff about your employee assistance programme (EAP) if you have one. This is a third-party service that offers free wellbeing support to employees. It allows them to access counselling and a range of self-help resources.

Encouraging employees to be open about mental health at work can help break the stigma. Plus, taking steps to support staff, like offering flexible working, can make a big difference.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Health & Safety gave to me…non-slippery walkways

It’s not a big ask to want to enter the workplace without the risk of slipping and having a serious injury. Around this time of year, icy walkways are a safety hazard.

Whether it’s shedded leaves or frost, it’s easy to slip and trip on entrances to work premises unless you take steps to reduce the risk.

Let’s say your employee injures themselves at work and you didn’t take steps to reduce or eliminate risk to them. You could be liable for a hefty compensation claim.

It’s a good idea to make sure your premises are regularly gritted and cleared of ice and snow. They should also be clearly lit, so your employees can be vigilant of any potential hazards in their path.

On the tenth day of Christmas, HR gave to me…dress code guidance

Whether it’s an offensive Christmas jumper or a risqué dress, employees should dress appropriately when they’re in work and at work events.

And by appropriately, this means not donning garments with controversial or derogatory slogans. Even at the work Christmas party, employees should dress up for the occasion while being mindful that it’s still a professional event.  

On the eleventh day of Christmas, HR gave to me…alcohol and drug prohibition

Tis the season when getting merry might be a result of more than just a few drinks. And if this starts affecting work then it’s a big issue for you.

If staff are turning up in unfit states due to alcohol, you shouldn’t let behaviour like this slide. And under no circumstances should an employee ever turn up to work while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

You should have an alcohol and drugs policy in your employee handbook. This should tell you how to handle an employee who turns up for work either drunk or hungover. It’s likely that you would need to send them home if they are unfit for work, particularly if their job involves driving or handling heavy machinery.

You should treat any employee turning up under the influence as a disciplinary matter. However, you will need to tread carefully. Dismissing an employee for drug or alcohol misuse without following the right steps could be seen as unfair. So, you would need to carry out a full and fair investigation before taking any action.

A policy should help you to deal with these issues in the right way to avoid legal risk.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, HR gave me…an anti-bribery policy

An innocent gift isn’t so innocent if it breaches anti-bribery laws. It might seem surprising when you have good intentions, but sometimes giving gifts at Christmas is not okay. That’s if it’s done under specific circumstances.

For example, here’s a scenario. Let’s say your employee gives their manager a gift ahead of their performance meeting. Legally, it might look like your employee is bribing their manager so they get special treatment. Even if this isn’t the case, timing is everything.

Alternatively, let’s say you have a client who sends your employee a gift. It could be nothing but a nice gesture. But if there’s any hint that the gift could be in exchange for the employee to act improperly, there’ll be trouble.

It’s why it’s vital for employees to have their wits about them when it comes to gift giving. That’s whether they’re the recipient or the sender. Keeping a record of any workplace gifts should be standard practice, so your business can prove what type of gift it is, the reason behind the gift and how much it’s worth. This can help cover your tracks if you were ever facing a bribery claim.

An anti-bribery policy will help set clear rules and keep your staff on the same page. This should reduce the risk of anyone accidentally getting embroiled in a bribery situation – and outline the consequences for those who do.

Download a free anti-bribery and corruption policy

An anti-bribery policy sets out rules and regulations for how your employees can handle potential bribes. Having adequate procedure lessens any risks corruption carries on a business.

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