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Your HR survival guide to the Christmas party


With Christmas on the horizon, it’s time for a lot of companies to begin winding down and taking stock of another business year. For staff, it’s the time to prepare for the Christmas party, for the HR department it’s a minefield.

But, it doesn’t have to be…

There’s a great deal of trust involved in providing your employees with alcohol and having them let loose outside of the office environment whilst socialising with people who’ve spent the last 12 months pushing their buttons.

From arguments to fights and flirting to harassment, HR departments need to be out in front of any possible issues before they have the opportunity to dig their claws in.

Code of conduct

Before the event, set out your stall clearly to all staff. A simple message to everyone encouraging them to have fun but also detailing the code of conduct you expect them to observe during the event. Remind staff that they are representing the business and you expect them to behave as such.

Limit the alcohol intake

While some companies may implement an open bar, others chose to provide drinks vouchers and exercise strict limits on servings of alcohol, i.e. no doubles or triples.

Call it a night

If you’re arranging the party at a venue, state the time the party is due to end. Make it clear that employees who choose to continue on at another venue do so at their own risk. If they act in a way that brings the company into disrepute or harms relationships in the workplace they could still be at risk of repercussion. 

Have your fairy godmother on hand with a pumpkin

One way to ensure people get home is to plan their transport at the end of the night. A few pre-booked taxis at the end of the party should ensure that most people get home safe without too much hassle. Employees tasked with getting home under their own volition may find themselves being distracted by something shiny, and continuing the night into the wee hours. Mitigate any risk by having a clear plan of action for the end of the night.

Manage your expectations

While it would be advantageous to have the night go off without a hitch, it’s always best to manage your expectations. There will be drunken behaviour and it’s likely that there will be words exchanged in the heat of the moment. You need to establish what is a HR issue and what is a byproduct of alcohol and reduced inhibitions.

If in doubt, Opsium employer support will be able to work with you to establish whether an incident warrants further action.

The morning after the night before? 

So you’ve survived the night, but what about the morning after? Many companies choose to have the Christmas party on a Friday to avoid the inevitable sick days that follow, whereas others will have the party midweek in an effort to stop employees getting too carried away. Which one is right?

It’s an either-or scenario as regardless of what you choose there will always be one. With that in mind, it’s best to address the issue of post-party absence before the event. Let employees know that they will have their pay deducted if they are late or fail to attend.

Alternatively, you can work with staff to encourage attendance. Offer staggered working shifts for the following day, while some will want to get in early and get the day over with, others will be glad of the lie in. If you give employees the option they are less likely to take advantage come the morning.

The important bit

Set out your stall. Don’t leave anything to chance and explain to your employees exactly what you expect of them. The Christmas party should be an opportunity to celebrate your successes for the year as a team. By following our few simple steps you can ensure it’s a night to remember.

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Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?


Do you crack the whip at work? Do you hate seeing staff chat amongst themselves or getting up to make another drink? Do you run a tight ship? If so, your staff probably aren’t that productive.

According to a report commissioned by office stationery firm, Viking, staff that are able to procrastinate from time to time are usually the most productive overall.

Viking surveyed 2,000 office and home workers across the UK and discovered that, on average, home workers are the most relaxed and stress free of the bunch, and that’s not because they do less work. In fact, home workers are the most productive of the group.

Research conducted by online meeting and screen sharing firm, Join Me, found that 80% of employees are equally as productive, if not more so, working from home. Responses from those surveyed included words such as;

‘Flexible’, ‘comfortable’, ‘no interruptions’, ‘quiet’, ‘less distractions’.

Besides being all they can be at home without the distractions of the workplace, home workers also have more breaks than the average office worker. Viking found that 39% of people who work from home take three or more breaks during the working day, as opposed to 52% of office workers who admitted to not taking any breaks at all, excluding lunch.

Probably the one downside to working from home is the feeling of isolation. 67% of office workers said they had someone to talk to when stressed, while almost half of home workers admitted to having no one to speak to. On the flipside to that, people who work from home often have less negative thoughts to contend with and get off their chest. Over half of all office workers questioned admitted to having negative thoughts about work every day or at least a few times a day, compared to just one third of home workers. 

So what does this tell us? If you can accommodate staff working from home you may find that they are generally happier, while being more productive overall. Why not trial it on a temporary basis to see if it works for your business. You may be surprised.

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Time for employers to wake up and smell the coffee on holiday pay


Last month saw the publication of the Court of Appeal judgement in the case of Lock v British Gas.  This case has been rumbling on for some time and the latest judgment simply confirmed the position that employers need to account for commission in holiday pay. 

Since this was announced we have been continually talking to employers who are either unaware of this case or have taken the view it is not a concern.  However, for any business that pays employees individual result based commission as part of their pay, this case has significant cost implications. 

The background to this case is as follows:

  • Mr Locke was a salesman whose income was made up of approximately 60% commission on sales.  When he was on holiday his income dropped as his holiday pay was calculated using his basic pay only.  The position now is that commission should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay.
  • This decision follows on from a Tribunal ruling on ‘non-guaranteed overtime’, which also stated such payments would need to be taken into account when calculating holiday pay

The immediate concern for employees is the issue of potential back pay claims. The government has introduced the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 which limit employers’ exposure to claims for backdated holiday pay to two years. 

Businesses who have not taken action face the risk of being confronted by employees seeking, in effect, an increase in pay and a back pay claim. By tackling the outcome of this case head on and making appropriate adjustments now, businesses can avoid conflict and potentially save costs.

Employers will need to review any additional payments being made to staff which are not included with the holiday pay calculation and consider what changes need to be made going forward. Employers are advised to contact Opsium for advice on how these decisions will impact on your business and what changes need to be made to your current arrangements. 

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The thin blue (inked) line


Last month, we published an article looking at whether visible tattoos have their place in the professional arena. From drunken mistakes to pieces of intricate artwork, tattoos have been around for centuries, decorating cultures long since passed from the Mayans to footballers and minor celebrities.

For those that didn’t read last month’s article (why?) the gist is that each company is responsible for managing tattoo and piercing policies within their business. Whilst we recommend working with your staff to come up with a policy that best reflects your business ethos, the law does not side with the inked army and if Holland and Barrett doesn’t want their customers to be served by a human colouring book, they don’t have to.

Does it matter anymore?

Judging by some of the comments on the topic, tattoo acceptance depends on age, class and background. This isn’t scientific fact and can often depend on the tattoo, for instance a ‘nice looking’ piece will often go down a lot better than a skull, wearing a cowboy hat smoking a pipe. Clearly there are a lot of people out there that don’t appreciate a good ‘skull tatt’.

It’s therefore no surprise that the Police Federation of England and Wales is trying to lift the ban on people with visible tattoos on their hands or face from becoming Police Officers. Since 2012 the Met has refused to take on recruits with visible tattoos, effectively ruling out people well suited for the role, and probably a lot that weren’t.

The Federation is calling for a sensible discussion on tattoos, presumably on a case by case basis, as opposed to a blanket ban.

Public opinion

While the public are increasing their tolerance to the tattooed, there are exceptions. For instance, facial tattoos are still stigmatised by being associated with gang members and angry boxers, while hand tattoos tend to signify being young and wanting to work at Holland and Barrett…

Home Office guidance on tattoos points to each candidate being judged on their own merit. Chief inspector Vicky Martin of the Federation said:

"The issue we've got is a number of forces are interpreting it differently and some are becoming very strict and I think it's actually becoming a bar to some really good people joining the service."

Chief Inspector Martin called for a “national standard, rather than local interpretation” adding:

"We are calling for a modern, consistent national approach to tattoos to be adopted across the police service. [The federation] believes that if the police service truly wants to embrace diversity and widen the talent pool it recruits from, then forces need to be more open-minded, so communities have a police service that reflects today's society."

Now forgive me if I’m wrong but describing tattoos as an issue of diversity is pushing it a little. Race, colour, sexual orientation, these are an issue of diversity; a tweety bird from a tattoo artist in Blackpool circa 1998 is not. Tattoos are a form of expression that involves choice, you can choose whether you have that tribal image on your arm or that rose on your hip. When businesses are asked to show more diversity with their recruitment it’s unlikely that means recruiting more people with Chinese symbol tattoos.


The Federation will be conducting research into public attitudes relating to police officers with tattoos, presumably at the cost of the taxpayer, toward the end of September, so you can expect a follow on from us in October. Hopefully once this is cleared we will look toward gaining voting rights for the tattooed minority. 

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How to manage someone like Joey...


Following his transfer to newly promoted Scottish giants Rangers FC, Joey Barton has been suspended just eight games into the season following a training ground bust up.

With Rangers back in the Scottish top division after suffering enforced relegation following financial difficulties in 2012, the future looked bright for one of Scotland’s biggest teams. A heavy defeat to rivals Celtic prompted Barton to take on the managerial role and let his team mates know where they were going wrong. This led to a training ground altercation with fellow player Andy Halliday, with Barton ordered home and warned not to return to training in a bid to cool things down. Unfortunately Barton became lost on his way home and ended up at talkSPORT. Not wanting to waste petrol, Barton decided to discuss his treatment live on air.

Barton described the circumstances as strange and advised that he needed to re-evaluate his situation. This forced Rangers manager, Mark Warburton to open crunch talks with Barton resulting in a three week ban from the ground and training facility.

So what can you do if you employ someone who displays raw passion?

  • Passion is a good thing, but it’s important to manage the attitude of your employees from the outset. Letting members of the team argue over petty squabbles will set a precedent that will be hard to put right in the future
  • Don’t let things fester. Work with your employees to air any grievances and if issues arrive involve staff in their resolution
  • The popularity and ease of social media mixed with high emotions is a recipe for disaster. Having a clearly defined social media policy and ensuring your team have read and understood it fully is a good way to proactively manage any online fall out with employees

If you currently employ someone like this or have members of your team that are on the cusp follow our simple guidelines or speak to one of our advisors for more personalised information.  

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