Hot topic: Work rotas at Christmas, part two

While many prepare for holiday celebrations, thousands of employees in hospitality, catering, social care and the NHS, among others, will work on bank holidays

How can employers make sure staff remain motivated and appreciated for their hard work, and ensure the rota system is as fair as possible?

Bina Patel, employment law solicitor at Archon Solicitors, says:

"As so much of the language around bank holiday entitlement comes from employees’ contracts and the staff handbook, you should ensure that this is as clear as possible. This should also be consistent across employees so there’s no chance of any perceived unfairness, and should outline how full-time, part-time and pro-rata employees can expect these holidays to be treated. Clear communication will likely shine a light on any issues before they can progress into problems.

"You may also want to set out a provision for bank holidays around other faiths. For example, if a Muslim colleague would prefer time off at Eid rather than Christmas, then you may want to allow them to do this. Not only does this reflect well on you as an employer, but it may also allow you to cover necessary duties over festive periods more easily. And remember, while you’re not legally obligated to pay extra for employees working on bank holidays, it pays to be generous and flexible."

David Gamblin, lecturer in organisational psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, says:

"Religious aspects aside, for many people Christmas is that unique time of the year when the demands of work finally disappear, if only for a brief period. But though Christmas is a big deal for some, for others it never really happens because they’re stuck at work.

"Over the last decade there has been a staggering increase in the number of people working over Christmas. The most recent available figures show that in 2018 900,000 people were working on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, companies spend more money on Christmas festivities than ever before. Not a bad thing in itself, but if you are one of those who will be working over the Christmas holidays, these festivities may appear to be a cruel mockery.

"Remember: the best thing you can do is make sure your employees get a proper, well-deserved break."

Read the first part of this hot topic

This piece appears in the December 2019 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk