Ryan McCarville
Ryan McCarville, Lawyer, McInnes Cooper

For many people, the holiday season now upon us is a fun-filled time of the year. But for employers, and especially those involved in human resource management, it can be the cause of a few more headaches than usual. Here are five common employment issues that cause HR headaches during the holiday season, and tips to help employers relieve them.

  1. Watch Out for Social Host Liability Exposure

Employers host a virtual winter storm of events over the holiday season and beyond – office parties, retreats, client and customer receptions. They intend these to be enjoyable events, opportunities for employees to celebrate the end of a year together, thank customers, network, or all of these – often while enjoying a “cup of cheer”. Employers know an employee could overindulge and embarrass himself (or the employer) – but that’s the least of the risks. Employers don’t necessarily have to pull the plug on holiday (or other) events altogether, but they should recognize the risks and take great care to manage them. Here are the three key legal duties employer owe their employees and five tips to help employers manage the risks.

  1. “Happy Holidays” Means All Religious Holidays – Not Just Those You Know

As Hanukkah and Christmas approach, employers’ thoughts turn to office holiday parties, family gatherings and the familiar (and typically mainstream) “holidays”. Other religious traditions and holidays, and the employers’ human rights duty to accommodate them, can easily fade into the background. But as the ethnic diversity of Canada’s population grows, so does the religious diversity of its workforce. Employers have a legal duty to accommodate employees’ religions both during the holidays and year-round to ensure all employees have a happy and healthy holiday season – whenever and whatever that religious holiday might be. Here’s how one employer’s handling of the Himmelfahrt violated its duty to accommodate on the basis of religion, and the answers to five of employers’ most frequently-asked questions about accommodating employees on the basis of religion.

  1. The (Turkey) Sandwich Generation’s Belt Feels Even Tighter

More and more employees are finding themselves in the “sandwich generation”, squeezed between childcare on one side and eldercare on the other. And that squeeze extends to their employers. At no time do these demands seem higher – and the squeeze tighter – than during the holidays, as employees struggle to juggle their work and the stress of meeting family expectations. The squeeze over the holidays and year-round has resulted in more family status discrimination claims, forcing decision-makers to balance the sandwiched employees’ needs against those of employers’. Here are the answers to five of employers’ most frequently-asked questions about workplace discrimination on the basis of family status.

  1. “I Got Run Over by a Reindeer Walking to Work”

The employment contract, at its core, is an exchange of work for compensation – and employers are entitled to expect regular ongoing attendance from their employees. Yet poor attendance and high absenteeism is one of the most common and difficult problems employers manage. And it’s an issue that can spike when the weather is cold, the holiday parties late and the egg nog is freely flowing. Here are 10 of the top employers’ attendance and absenteeism management problems, and tips to help employers deal with them.

  1. Actually, Airports Might Not Be Happy Places for Employees (or Employers)

Airports might often be happy places, but this might not be the case during the holidays, at least for employees or their employers. Employee tardiness is one of the most frequent causes of attendance problems – and adverse weather is one of the top three reasons employees give for it. Northern winters can be snowy, slippery and long, resulting in treacherous driving, cancelled flights and during the holidays in particular, an employee’s ability to make it home in time to be at work. Here are three tips to help employers manage employee tardiness due to adverse weather conditions.

To discuss this or any other legal issue, contact any member of the Labour & Employment Team @ McInnes Cooper.  Read more McInnes Cooper Legal Publications and subscribe to receive those relevant to your business.

McInnes Cooper prepared this article for information; it is not legal advice.  Consult McInnes Cooper before acting on it. McInnes Cooper excludes all liability for anything contained in or any use of this article. © McInnes Cooper, 2017.  All rights reserved.

About the author:

Ryan McCarville is a Labour and Employment lawyer at McInnes Cooper. With particular expertise in the government and institutional sector, Ryan advises unionized and non-unionized employers on a wide array of labour and employment law matters, including employee discipline and termination, employment contracts, wrongful dismissal claims, human rights and workplace investigations. You can reach Ryan at ryan.mccarville@mcinnescooper.com