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Christmas Rota Headache? A Practical Guide for Employers

November 19, 2021 | By: Victoria Owings

christmas rota planning
Whilst many businesses close for Christmas, for those that remain open careful Christmas rota planning is essential to avoid potential staffing headache. Some sectors have to work at Christmas; these include the hospitality industry, security, emergency services and domiciliary care sectors. Whilst some people may not mind working over the festive period, others are not always so willing to do so. After the restrictions on gatherings last Christmas, this year many staff will be looking to enjoy as much time with friends and family as possible. This may lead to some resistance to your rota plans. With COVID 19 infection rates remaining reasonably high, you may also experience difficulties due to staff requiring to self-isolate.

5 Key Tips for Effective Christmas Rota Planning

  • Tip 1. Get Ahead
    Organising the Christmas rota should begin in plenty time, and we would recommend starting it as soon as possible. If you delay and staff members have already made plans for Christmas, many excuses can be made, or attempts may be made to avoid working over the period. It is inevitable attempts will be made by some employees to avoid working over the festive period. However, if you start planning early then employees can plan their lives around the Christmas rota, rather than the business drafting the rota around the staff.
  • Tip 2. Get Staff Members on Board with Rota Plans
    Employees are more likely to be accepting of your rota plans if they understand you have tried to be as fair as possible. If an employee has not worked on Christmas Day for several years, but others do it every year, explain the need for fairness within your team and how that has informed your rota decisions. Analyse your contracts to be certain of which days you can require employees to work. Even if you have the contractual right to impose working on certain days, it is always best to discuss the particular days or shift pattern, which they would prefer to work over the festive period, and then try and work with the staff. No matter the contractual position if you plan the rota and discuss it with staff afterwards, resistance, complaints and perhaps even grievances will follow.
  • Tip 3. Try to be Reasonable
    Try not to dictate the rota to staff, as it may lead to employees taking time off sick or potentially behaving in a disruptive way. The rota should be completed through consultation and agreement whenever possible. Listen to staff concerns or problems. If shifts can be moved to accomodate individual employees, that’s preferable to an employee coming into work either in a disgruntled manner, or failing to attend work at all.
  • If the shifts are through agreement, then all staff are more likely to be reliable in their attendance over the Christmas period. Once a rota is set and employees wish to swap shifts/days between themselves, it should be made clear that such changes need to be with the agreement of management. This will save any confusion, in the event of a no show, as it will prevent a situation where an employee claims they had switched shifts/days with another employee and the employer is left not knowing who to believe.
  • Tip 4. Christmas Bonus & Benefits
    To reward those who are willing to cover the most unsociable shifts over the festive season, it may be worth paying a bonus or additional remuneration. Additional payment for such shifts may be a contractual right or it may just be a recognition from the employer that those shifts are difficult to fill.
  • Tip 5. Have a Contingency Plan
    It’s always worth having a backup plan, in case an employee calls in sick, or if there’s an emergency or another unplanned situation. It may still be all too common this year for an employee to claim they need to self-isolate, so best to be prepared. Organising ‘reserve’ staff members in advance, who have confirmed they are willing to be on standby and cover shifts on certain dates in the event of absences, can relieve the stress. Such a step will provide security on staffing levels for a business or organisation over the festive period.

With careful Christmas rota planning, staffing issues over the festive period can be minimised. In some industries reliability can be a problem, but by following these 5 key tips, hopefully any issues can be resolved.

Contact our HR and Employment Law team for HR Advice and support over the holiday season.

About the Author
Victoria Owings
Victoria Owings
Victoria Owings, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

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