Christmas holidays - negotiating with employees

Christmas is a time for celebration and fun – but for business owners it can also be a logistical nightmare.

Planning holiday arrangements with your employees can seem like an impossible task. In order to accommodate everyone you need to think strategically – and think ahead.

Co-ordination is key

As with any element of your business, co-ordination is key during the Christmas period. Organising holiday time amongst even a small staff can be difficult at the best of times – but Christmas clearly poses some added problems.

You need to think ahead as far as possible in order for everyone to be satisfied. Try to put together a chart a few months in advance, on which employees can mark down their preferred holiday dates.

You will also need to decide how you will manage conflicts. If it is impossible to accommodate two employees’ preferred dates, how will you decide who gets priority? Will it be first-come-first-served? Whatever your choice, it is important that you make this clear in advance, and tha st all your employees are aware of the system.

Give your employees precedence

Where practical, you should always give your employees precedence when it comes to holiday days. In cases in which it is impossible for both you and an employee to take time off at your preferred times, make sure that the employee gets priority.

Any sense that you are taking time off at your employees’ expense is likely to damage morale and working relations – particularly over the Christmas period.

Prepare for a rush

It goes without saying that demand for time off over Christmas will be high. Depending on the size of your workforce and the nature of your business, it may be difficult to accommodate all the requests. You need to be prepared for this, and you need to think about ways to ensure that as many of your employees as possible get their desired dates. This might well involve changing your working practices slightly during the festive period.

You should also remember, however, that many businesses experience a rush of custom over Christmas. This is obviously particularly important for retailers. If you are worried about the strain on your staffing levels you might consider taking on temps. Remember, though, that you will need to spend time training these workers – and that they should generally be used in addition to your regular staffing levels, rather than to plug holiday gaps.

Think about your holiday years

In the longer term, give some thought to the way in which you arrange your annual holiday leave. Most businesses calculate their annual leave as running from January to January. This seems sensible in theory, but it can also lead to situations in which employees rush to use up all their leftover holiday time during the Christmas and New Year period.

As a result, you might consider changing your arrangements such that your holiday year runs from a different month. This can help to even out holiday across the year.

Be flexible

Finally, remember that the Christmas period will often require you to be generally more flexible. Childcare arrangements may be different, schools are finishing, and so on. All these factors will have an impact on your employees’ daily lives, and they will hope that you will be able to accommodate those changes. You should therefore be prepared to be as flexible as possible during this period, in addition to the provision of holiday time.

Happy Christmas!