The TUC today launches a campaign to find the modern Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas’ meanest boss.
The union body has set up an online Search for Scrooge where today’s workers can share any (anonymous) stories about other Dickensian practices in the workplace.
The top 10 employment practices that could get you in trouble with the TUC are:
Making staff work on Christmas bank holidays or lose pay: contrary to popular opinion, there is no legal right to bank holidays, though most people have this in their contract. Some bosses even close the business on bank holidays, forcing staff to miss a day’s work and pay.
Counting Christmas bank holidays as part of annual leave: there is a minimum of 20 days’ paid annual leave, but a minority of bosses count bank holidays as part of this minimum, rather than in addition to it. This legal loophole lets some employers get away with in effect only allowing 12 days’ annual leave a year.
Keeping the office freezing to save on heating costs: there is a minimum legal temperature of 16¡C in workplaces (13¡C for active and strenuous work). Below this, staff should be allowed to go somewhere warmer, or go home.
Dictating Christmas leave arrangements at short notice: some workplaces are very busy around Christmas, and bosses may want to rule out annual leave requests to ensure continual coverage. However, if they want to do this they need to give staff notice of at least the same period they want to rule out. Other employers find work dries up between Christmas and New Year, so some compel staff to take the time off, even if they would rather save their leave for another time. For this, staff should be given notice of at least twice the period they have to take as leave.
Banning workplace relationships that start at the Christmas party: many relationships start at work; not surprising perhaps, as people spend so much of their time there! Although this rarely causes serious problems, some employers have blanket policies to ban workplace relationships. There is a valid concern relationship problems might spill over into work, affecting professionalism or causing favouritism, but in most cases a total ban is excessive and employers should treat staff as adults, not children.
Not allowing parents flexitime to see their children’s nativity play: there is no statutory right to have time off for this kind of occasion, and about 40 per cent of workers do not normally have any scope for flexibility in their hours. Most bosses allow their workers some leeway at Christmas, but a small minority lack the Christmas spirit.
Not allowing Christmas decorations at work: some bosses use the argument that it is a health and safety risk, and others say it makes the workplace look unprofessional. This might be fair enough in some rare circumstances, but some bosses ban all personal effects from desks, even down to personal photos or Christmas cards.
Not paying the minimum wage for temporary Christmas jobs: a lot of employers take on extra staff to work in the busy run-up to Christmas. Most people are entitled to the national minimum wage, but some employers may wrongly claim jobs are exempt, particularly for younger workers, for whom a minimum wage is still a new right (£3 an hour for 16- to 18-year olds).
Making people work late over Christmas: this is a time when most workers want to spend more time with their families, but many workplaces suffer from a long hours’ culture, with staff often putting in the equivalent of an extra day a week in unpaid overtime. Tiny Tims all over the UK are missing out on time with late-working parents.
Cancelling Christmas parties on safety or compensation grounds: a recent survey found more than seven out of 10 employers had cut traditional staff parties, rather than run the risk of litigation over accidents or sexual harassment. However, if a party is properly planned and safely conducted, everything should go smoothly and there is no need for this kind of over-reaction.
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