Christmas and the festive period can be a very special time for many to spend valuable time with their family, friends, and loved ones. Whilst some businesses will experience an influx of holiday requests over Christmas, others completely close during this period and need employees to book annual leave.

With that being said, let’s delve into our top tips for navigating Christmas annual leave as an employer.

Are my employees entitled to annual leave over Christmas?

Whilst most employees will believe they are entitled to the paid statutory bank holidays over the festive period for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, it’s important to refer back to the specific terms in their contract of employment.

Following the terms of the contract of employment, it is also down to the business owner’s discretion if the business is operational or closed over the festive period.

When to communicate booking annual leave over Christmas

If your business closes at any point, such as between Christmas and New Year, you may require employees to utilise some of their annual leave entitlement to cover these dates.

ACAS states that if certain dates are required to be taken as holiday, employers should inform employees at least “at least twice as many days before as the number of days they need you to take.”

It is best practice be transparent and clear on this to give your employees as much notice as possible when asking them to utilise set annual leave days. If you can notify employees at the start of the holiday year that annual leave is required to be booked off during December, this should give employees plenty of notice to get this annual leave booked in.

For example, this year certain businesses will be closed between Monday 25th December 2023 – 1st January 2024. Depending on if your business operates Monday – Friday and the terms of your employees’ contract of employment, full time employees will need to book 3 days annual leave to cover the dates 27th, 28th and 29th December 2023 outside of the UK bank holidays.

How to ensure employees book set annual leave dates?

If you have read our blog post on the benefits of HR systems, you will appreciate how easy and intuitive HR software’s are to effectively manage annual leave.

To ensure employees book off set annual leave dates, such as between Christmas and New Year 2023, you can utilise the company announcements feature on a HR software such as Breathe HR.  This means that all employees will be notified of an announcement to book and utilise certain annual leave dates over the festive period.  Remember to set a clear date in the company announcement for when employees need to book the required annual leave by.

Alternatively, it may be easier to book off the set annual leave dates for your employees on your HR software to keep your records consistent and up to date following the company announcement.

What if I can’t allow employees to book time off over Christmas to remain operational?

If your business is in sector such as hospitality or retail that requires employees work during busy seasonal periods, blackout holiday periods can be set over certain festive dates. This means that employees will be unable to book annual leave on the HR system during the blackout period unless approved by a Director. Blackout periods are beneficial when it’s essential for your business to work at full capacity.

Again, providing as much notice as possible to employees of blackout holiday periods will help to mitigate disappointed employees later in the year.

And there we have our top tips for navigating Christmas annual leave as an employer!

If you are seeking outsourced HR support on either a time bank or retained basis, or are interested in experiencing the benefits of a HR system for yourself, please get in touch with the Norton Loxley team.