Frequently asked festive HR questions

Last updated: December 13th, 2023

First published: December 4th 2023
Last updated: December 4th 2023

The Christmas season tends to be a crucial period for many small businesses and can make or break their profit margin for the year.

It’s really important therefore that employee issues don’t distract you from your main priority of serving customers and clients during this busy period.

Here we take a look at some common HR questions we receive around the busy Christmas season.

Do I have to give contracts to seasonal staff?

Yes. Seasonal staff have the same legal rights and protections as full-time staff. At minimum, you need to provide seasonal employees with a written statement of terms and conditions or a written contract of employment as well as a written statement of the core terms within five days of starting work.

Our HR documentation experts can help you ensure you comply with your obligations in this regard.

How do I minimise absenteeism during the busiest time of the year?

Having a strong absence management policy and procedure year-round is the best way to minimise absenteeism.

The return-to-work interview is a key part of any effective absence management policy. Employees are less likely to take unauthorised absences to enjoy the Christmas festivities or do their shopping if they know they’ll have to complete a return-to-work interview.

If there is evidence that any absences are not for genuine reasons, you may need to take disciplinary action. Ensure you follow the steps outlined in your disciplinary procedures and if you do need to sanction an employee, make sure it’s an appropriate response to the offence.

What do I do if someone turns up to work drunk?

It’s a time of year when people catch up and sometimes the Christmas spirit might get the better of your staff.

If employees turn up for work worse for wear after a heavy night of drinking, you need to decide how to approach the employee. If an employee is hungover and their level of work is not acceptable, you may need to have a private chat with them and explain that a hangover does not give them permission to slack.

If an employee is still under the influence, you may need to take more serious action. If an employee is still under the influence, there may be health and safety risks to consider and it might be necessary to suspend the employee pending further investigation.

Consider sending a memo to employees reminding them of their responsibilities over the Christmas season and how important it is to maximise productivity at this time of year.

You could also refer to your alcohol and drug policy and remind staff in safety critical roles that disciplinary action up to and including dismissal will be taken if they fail to meet their responsibilities.

How do I protect my business against claims arising from Christmas party incidents?

The Christmas party should be a chance for everyone to meet in a more relaxed environment and to celebrate another year in a successful business.

The danger from a HR point of view is that employees may be more likely to act inappropriately once they are away from the professional environment of the workplace.

To protect your business against a variety of HR risks, you should circulate a memo in advance of the party reminding staff of their responsibilities.

You can include any relevant policies from your employee handbook such as codes of conduct, alcohol consumption, anti-harassment, absence, health and safety, disciplinary/grievance and social media.

And remember to defend a harassment claim, you must be able to show that you took all reasonably practical steps to prevent the harassment from taking place. As well as evidence that staff have read and understood your policies, your defence will stand up better if your employees have also received training on anti-harassment policies and measures in your workplace.

Can I insist staff work overtime to meet Christmas demand?

Yes, provided your contract of employment allows for this. There are a few things to bear in mind.
Working time rules state that employees should not work more than an average of 48 hours per over a four-month reference period (six months in certain sectors). Ensure that staff don’t breach these limits if they are working overtime.

You should also ensure that staff receive their overtime pay and benefits for their extra hours. This should be set out in your contract of employment and it’s vital to comply with your own terms to avoid employee unrest and/or legal claims.

How do I handle lots of holiday requests over the Christmas period?

You will need to rely on your annual leave policy.

This can be a difficult issue to handle with staff so you may need to set limits in writing confirming how many days of annual leave employees can take during the Christmas period.

The most important thing when dealing with multiple annual leave requests is to be fair and consistent.

For most employers, the fairest approach to manging annual leave is operate a first-come, first-served policy that requires all staff to follow the same procedure.

While it won’t be possible to accommodate everyone, if the rules are the same for all staff, you can demonstrate that everyone is treated fairly.

Need employment law or HR help with a festive HR question?

If you have any questions around how to handle employees in the run up to Christmas, call one of our HR and employment law experts today.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Book a call with a consultant

Complete the form below and a consultant will call you as soon as possible.

Latest Resources

What happens when workplace romances go wrong

workplace romances gone wrong
First published: February 14th 2024 Last updated: February 14th 2024 Love makes the world go round, or so they say. But what effect does love […]

10 tips for handling an office romance

First published: February 12th 2020 Last updated: February 14th 2024 It’s estimated people spend a third of their life at work, so it’s no surprise […]

An employer’s defence to sexual harassment claims

Sexual harassment claims
First published: December 11th 2023 Last updated: December 11th 2023 While the vast majority of Christmas party celebrations pass off without any problems, there’s no […]

Olga Shevchenko

Director/Advocate, Immigration Advice Bureau

Olga Shevchenko specialises in immigration advocacy and consultancy, in particular, employment permit, visas, family reunification, citizenship, etc, for those seeking to visit, reside or invest in Ireland.

Olga provides extensive information, knowledge, and support to her clients, enabling access to positive solutions for people struggling to handle the immigration law.

Minister Neale Richmond

Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Neale Richmond TD was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special responsibility for Employment Affairs and Retail Business and the Department of Social Protection in January 2023.

Much of his work at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is with businesses, workers, their representative bodies and the State Agencies to ensure that the economic recovery and growth extends to all parts of the country. He works closely with the SME sector, including retail, on building resilience and on the transition to the green and digital economies.

Mark Carpenter

Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Sky

Mark Carpenter is Director of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs at Sky Ireland. In this role he has responsibility for External and Internal Communications, Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs and the company’s ‘Bigger Picture’ (CSR) programme. He also works closely with Sky Group teams on a variety of matters, in particular our partnerships with domestic broadcasters.

Prior to working at Sky, Mark worked as a Policy Officer in Houses of the Oireachtas and as a Management Consultant at Accenture. He has a BA in History from Oxford University and a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin.

Nora Cashe

Litigation and Compliance Manager, Peninsula

Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Managing Director, Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

Senior HR Consultant, Graphite HRM

Rhiannon Coyne is a Senior HR Consultant at Graphite HRM and will be providing an overview of best practice on how to deal with complaints of bullying and harassment in the workplace. 

With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Chairman, Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.