Christmas cutbacks: the year of frugal festivities

The 2009 IRS Christmas funding survey, to be published exclusively by XpertHR on 14 December, reveals that half of the employers polled (48%) are planning to either spend less than last year on Christmas festivities, bonuses and gifts, or not contribute any money at all.

The survey found just a handful (7%) plan to increase their spending. In many cases, employees who want to celebrate Christmas with their colleagues will either have to fork out for themselves, or accept that festivities this year will be less lavish.

Four in 10 (45%) of the 113 employers taking part in the research will be spending less on company-wide Christmas parties and one in five (22%) will cut back on celebratory lunches (see chart below)

Among those spending on Christmas in 2009, the average total budget per head is £51 and the average outlay for the company party is £30.

Apart from cutting back on Christmas, almost nine in 10 organisations (89%) have found other ways to cut costs during the past year – the most common measures being redundancies (59%), a freeze on pay (54%), and reduced use of contract staff (51%).

Charlotte Wolff, report author and XpertHR employee relations editor, says: “Last year’s IRS research into Christmas working practice found that employers were keen to reward employees for their efforts, with plenty of Christmas parties planned and a significant amount of money on offer from employers to fund parties.

“This year, we are seeing a noticeable difference. Employers are looking for creative ways to cut costs and cutting back on Christmas parties, lunches and bonuses can be one of the least controversial ways to do this.”

Employers were also asked how employees had reacted to the past year’s cutbacks. Employees at just over half (51%) the organisations surveyed understand and accept why cost-cutting measures have to happen, and staff at one-third (32%) of companies, while unhappy, are not actively opposed. Only 1% of organisations report employees actively opposing the cutbacks.

“It appears that UK employees are generally compliant when it comes to cutbacks, even when they are actually unhappy about changes that are being made,” adds Wolff.

“Often this is because they are keen to hold on to their jobs, but employers who carry out a targeted communication exercise alongside difficult changes can gain genuine support from employees.”

Alcohol misuse during the Christmas party season – employers’ checklist

Helen Dallimore, of law firm Osborne Clarke, has put together the following tips for employers:

  1. Identify the potential risk to the business of alcohol misuse by employees, and the correct approach to adopt.
  2. Ensure that disciplinary rules include alcohol misuse.
  3. Adopt an alcohol policy.
  4. Consider reminding employees about their obligations in relation to alcohol use.
  5. Be consistent when applying the rules and policy on alcohol use.
  6. Deal immediately with employees who are under the influence of alcohol in the workplace.
  7. Take disciplinary action if appropriate.

You can read this article (part of a series dealing with alcohol misuse during the Christmas period) in full on XpertHR.

Further reading: XpertHR frequently asked questions

Christmas parties:

Other FAQs:

Other useful resources:

  • Christmas party checklist: what measures can you take to avoid costly employment claims?
  • Model letter: Statement to employees in advance of a Christmas party or similar work-related event

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