UK employers hold back on Christmas bonuses for staff this year

The majority of companies are celebrating Christmas by hosting parties or departmental Christmas lunches, rather than offering gifts.

Whilst the majority of companies are celebrating Christmas by hosting company-wide parties (50.8 per cent) or departmental Christmas lunches (47.2 per cent), there will be fewer Christmas bonuses, gifts awarded or additional time off for employees this year, according to research from XpertHR.

Employers plan to spend an average of £93.33 and a median of £50 per employee on their Christmas celebrations – a figure which hasn’t changed significantly since the last time XpertHR conducted this survey in 2012/13, when the median spend was £42.82.

However, fewer than one in five organisations (17.9 per cent) will be offering employee gifts this year compared to 21.1 per cent in 2012/2013 and just 18 employers will award Christmas bonuses, with no increase in payment planned compared with last year.

Sheila Attwood, managing editor, pay and HR practice at XpertHR says, ‘We are seeing many employers holding tightly to their purse strings and being cautious about spending on staff gifts and bonuses in particular this year.’

Time off instead of Christmas bonuses

Although the majority of organisations will close for Christmas Day (82.1 per cent) and New Year’s Day (77.4 per cent), employees looking forward to additional time off may be disappointed, with only one in eight (12.3 per cent) employers planning to offer this benefit over the 2016/17 festive season.

Also, just over half (51.2 per cent) of employers require employees to be on standby or available for call out, not including those that are covered by standby or call-out arrangements, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) said they will require some employees to work on the Christmas and New Year bank holidays.

Whereas traditionally employers that expected employees to work during Christmas and New Year tended to award bonus payments, XpertHR has seen an increase in the number of companies offering time off in lieu instead.

Whilst employers may be held indirectly liable for harm caused to other employees or third parties by the negligent acts of employees during company Christmas celebrations, nearly six out of 10 (57.3 per cent) employers admit they don’t have a policy in place setting out acceptable standards of behaviour.

17 organisations admit they had experienced problems at the last Christmas event, with six organisations saying these issues had resulted in formal disciplinary proceedings.

Where advice is offered to employees attending Christmas celebrations, it most commonly covers not to drink and drive (37.7 per cent employers) and providing information on transport options (20.9 per cent).

Some employers also provide transport home (14.2 per cent) or to nearby public transport (11.6 per cent), whilst others pay for overnight accommodation or negotiate a corporate rate on their employees’ behalf to stay near or ay the venue.

Attwood concludes, ‘Everyone wants to let their hair down during the Christmas bonuses celebrations but in order to mitigate risk, employers need to have clear policies in place about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. This needs to be communicated well in advance to make sure employees understand there could be serious consequences for unacceptable behaviour.’

Further reading on Christmas gifts

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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