There is no doubt this time of year brings some unusual HR queries to our door. We have been so busy with seasonal type issues so we have decided to share some pointers with you.
The Christmas Party
Getting together at Christmas is a great way of socialising and celebrating what your team has achieved over the past year. It is important to remind employees to act responsibly and safely. Unfortunately, inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party can cause serious repercussions.
Employers, do you know that if you arrange a Christmas party, the party venue is basically an extension of the workplace and that you remain responsible for the well-being, protection and behaviour of employees during such events? Enjoy the festivities, have a great time but be aware of your responsibilities.
First and foremost, the safety of staff and children is paramount! We had reports of services opening despite the most severe weather alerts in fear of breaching their funding contracts. It is important to take note of weather alerts and follow any directives from the emergency services. Legally employers do not have to pay employees for days that they do not work (when the service is open) due to extreme weather conditions. However, it is important to be aware of what you have done in the past as this will override this position. Any custom and practice in place should be adhered to.
If you do not have a policy in place this is an ideal time to prepare one and you should include procedure regarding staff and also in relation to parents and families regarding payment of fees etc
If the weather is extreme and employees cannot get in to work due to limited or no public transport or blocked roads, you could consider using one of the following options:
Can the employee work from home or work remotely? This may not be an option due to the nature of the work?
The employee can use one of their annual leave days or take unpaid leave
The employee can work the time back up at a later date or time in agreement with the employer
In terms of notifying the employer if they cannot get in to work, it is important to remind employees that they should check what is in the contract of employment. Some employees may fail to attend for work despite suitable public transport being in operation so unless authorisation has been granted by the employer, this is not a justifiable reason for absence. It is important to remind employees that not coming in to work or contacting the company will be deemed as an unexcused absence and will be dealt with under the company’s disciplinary procedure.
We covered this in a recent blog- see link below;
The official public holidays for the Christmas period are:
Monday 25th December
Tuesday 26th December
Monday 2nd January
The Morning After
At this time of year employees may be socialising more than usual. If an employee comes in to work and it appears that they are under the influence of alcohol this may have serious consequences primarily for the children in their care and also for your business.
If management suspects the employee may be under the influence of alcohol or other substance, two competent people should be asked to meet with the employee and see if the employee is unfit to work.
If the two witnesses determine that it appears the employee is intoxicated and unfit to work, [factors for this conclusion such as alcohol on breath, dilated pupils, impaired speech etc should be documented]. Following this meeting if the witnesses have a reasonable belief the employee is under the influence of some form of intoxicants, the employee should be sent home immediately for the remainder of the day. If you have an intoxicant policy this sending home may be without pay. If you don’t have this in your policy then you should send home with pay. The employee should be informed this is not a disciplinary action but is in the interest of health and safety of the employee and the children in their care, work colleagues and parents. The matter then needs to be investigated. As always proceed with caution during an investigation and ensure you follow due process
An employer cannot force an employee to be tested for alcohol. Do you have an Intoxicant policy clearly stating the procedure?
If at any stage the employee voluntarily discloses that they have an alcoholism issue, it is strongly advised that the investigation / disciplinary process should cease and proper supports should be put in place to assist the employee on this.
Gifts For Staff
Whatever you feel about this it is good to have a policy so staff and parents know what is expected.