Friday, 2 August 2013

Christmas countdown is already here

Christmas is the perfect opportunity for Shropshire employers to save money – by insisting their staff take annual leave.

John Mehtam, our employment law specialist said even if an annual shutdown was not mentioned in their employment contracts, company bosses could enforce the rule.

But he warned that employers must provide as much notice as possible to ensure their workforce still had enough annual leave.

“If you find the days between Christmas and New Year are traditionally very quiet for your business, you may wonder what the point is of paying your staff when there’s not enough work to be done. So introducing an annual shutdown is an excellent idea which has many benefits including saving on heating and lighting costs.

"And even if there is no provision in your staff contracts for such a move, it’s still possible as you have employer’s rights under the Working Time Regulations 1998. You will though have to follow some very specific notification rules, or your directors could find themselves with all kinds of problems on their hands.”

In order to comply with the regulations, you must give any employees affected notice which is at least double the length of the annual leave you want them to take.

“So for two days’ annual leave you’d  need to give at least four days’ notice, and for a week’s leave, at least two weeks’ notice. If you do decide to adopt this approach, it’s far better to notify your employees as soon as possible.

"If you leave it until the statutory notification point, you could find some or all of them don’t have enough annual leave left, and can’t meet your annual shutdown requirements, so this is likely to defeat any cost-saving aims.

“You also don’t have to give the reason for the shutdown decision to your employees, although it may help the relationship with your staff if you do. Remember too that all staff must be treated equally and consistently, and that includes the directors. But if some directors need to be available during the shutdown period and not on annual leave, that’s perfectly justifiable.

“It may seem a crazy idea to be thinking about Christmas working arrangements in the middle of the summer, but now is the perfect time plan ahead and give your staff time to get used to the idea.”