I have an employee who did not meet the Christmas bonuses requirement. However, she claims that she should qualify as her extra day off work disqualifying her was an “emergency hospital visit”. Where do I go from here?
Questions regarding Christmas bonuses are very common at this time of year and employers often have to deal with both queries from their staff about why they are not eligible for the bonus or claims that they are in fact eligible and have not been treated fairly.
Generally speaking, the guidelines an employer sets to decide whether or not an employee qualifies for Christmas bonuses are at the employer’s discretion. Therefore, if one of the criteria is that a certain number of days’ sickness absence disqualifies the employee from receiving the bonus, and an employee has passed that threshold, they simply do not qualify. While this may seem harsh, making allowances for some individuals and not others opens the floodgates to complaints from other members of staff.
Christmas bonuses policy
It would be good practice to implement a company policy regarding the specific requirements that employees must satisfy in order to qualify for a Christmas bonus. Making employees aware of this policy from the outset and reminding them at the start of each year will make sure they are clear about where they stand and will inevitably reduce the number of queries employers have in this regard in the run up to Christmas.
There are some circumstances, however, where employers may be required to be more lenient. The Equality Act 2010 makes it clear that the employer must consider certain absences when they form a criterion for employee benefits. If absences are in relation to, for example, pregnancy-related illness or disability, there is distinct potential that using these to disqualify an employee from receiving a bonus could lead to a discrimination claim, and as such discounting them for the purposes of the bonus is recommended.
Peter Done is managing director and founder of HR consultancy Peninsula