It is the busiest time of the retail year, and with the American phenomenon Black Friday truly making its mark in the UK, the industry sees a massive influx of staff into the sector as stores try to keep up with seasonal shoppers.
As an employer, coping with Christmas poses many issues – employment lawyer Amber Bate from FBC Manby Bowdler shares some advice on how to avoid some of the major pitfalls this festive season:
Who wants to work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day? The answer is not many people, so you can always expect increased holiday request applications at this time of year. And it’s not just Christmas where you need to have a policy in place about holiday requests. Consider how you will deal with this – should it be on a first come first served basis, through random selection, or, if you are in the retail sector, perhaps you deny all requests? Make sure your policy is clearly communicated to your workforce and fairly enforced"
According to one report, around 90 per cent of employers expected a reduction in productivity on Black Friday as staff try to bag a bargain. Make sure you have an IT systems and communications policy in place, so that you and employees know what is acceptable interest usage. For example, is internet shopping allowed in lunch breaks? What processes do you have in place to prevent abuse of work time and online use?
Who can forget the awful scenes of shoppers being trampled as people tried to save money with a Black Friday bargain? If you are expecting an influx of customers into your store in person, make sure the shop floor is properly staffed and all staff are briefed on health and safety procedures. This could prevent legal issues if a problem does arise.
If you are taking on temporary staff for the Christmas period, you have to have well drafted contracts in place. If you’re using zero hours contracts, workers will be entitled to fewer rights than employees, but be careful that these are only used where the relationship really is that of a zero hours worker. If, in reality, they have fixed hours they are expected to work, they may have additional rights as employees that you are not aware of.
If you decide to use fixed term contracts, employees are entitled to the same benefits as their permanent colleagues such as bonus scheme, discounts, and sick pay. They are also allowed to apply to fill any permanent vacancies.
Finally, never skip any important steps as an employer, such as immigration checks, even if you’re under pressure. For instance, if you fail to complete the proper checks to confirm the right to work in the UK, you could be be subject to steep fines or even criminal sanctions.
Amber Bate is an employment solicitor with leading law firm FBC Manby Bowdler. She deals in various aspects of employment law, including settlement agreements, grievances, disciplinary proceedings, drafting contracts and handbooks, redundancies, reorganisations, discrimination claims and acting for both claimants and respondents in all types of Employment Tribunal proceedings. Amber also assists the corporate team in relation to employment aspects of various corporate transactions.
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