It’s the Holiday Season

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Roderick Moore, Slee Blackwell’s employment law specialist takes a seasonal look at holiday entitlement and the traditional Christmas party.

We all look forward to enjoying some time off at Christmas. Employees (or “workers” as they are referred to in the Working Time Regulations) are entitled to 28 days statutory leave. This is fairly well known, and derives in part from European Law. What is perhaps less well know is how the 28 days relates to the eight bank and public holidays that we currently enjoy in this country. Those eight days plainly include Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Originally, the statutory right was to four week’s leave, and so 20 days for those who normally work a five day week. The intention behind the extension to 28 days was probably to ensure that workers who did not receive bank and public holidays in addition to their statutory entitlement were brought into line in terms of number of days’ holiday with those who did. Anyway, the point is that the 28 days includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Of course, it is open to the employer under the contract to provide greater paid holiday. What the law requires is simply a minimum.

Some businesses, such as those in the catering and hospitality sector, function fully during the festive period. The Regulations entitle the employer to insist that essential workers work while the rest of us are eating our turkeys, opening our presents and trying to be friendly to the in-laws, provided that certain notice requirements are adhered to. Similarly, some businesses, particular those within the construction sector, shut down from before Christmas until the New Year. Again, the Regulations allow the employer to insist that those days are taken as holiday and count towards the 28 days. As a general rule, the Regulations allow the employment contract to make more detailed or more generous (from the workers’ point of view) provision, but in the absence of a contract, all entitlements derive from the Regulations.

On a more lighted hearted note, employers must be aware of the dangers of the Christmas Party.

Employees are protected against all sorts of discrimination and harassment by the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, including sexual harassment. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and can cause people to engage in behaviour that they would not otherwise contemplate when sober. Or, put another way, if sober, they would only think or dream about it and not actually try to do it. I have represented many employees and employers in the Employment Tribunal where sexual harassment has been alleged at the Christmas Party.

So be good, or, if you can’t be good, be careful.