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Keeping your office content this Christmas

Working over the festive period can have its ups and downs. You may find that in your business some employees embrace the community spirit, want to organise parties, plan team meals and shop for secret Santa presents. Others merely sip their complimentary mulled wine and grumble like the Grinch.

However large your workforce, being aware of how the holiday season affects your employees is important.

Be diverse

“I don’t like the word ‘Xmas’, it’s like putting a cross through Christ”. I once overheard that in an office I worked in. People have differing opinions on how important Christmas is to them; some observe it as a religious holiday, others see it as an excuse to focus on the cheese board, and others don’t celebrate it at all.

Either way, keeping your workplace more inclusive this holiday season is important. You need to cater for the masses, not just those putting up the tinsel.

It’s worth thinking about what the holiday season means to your workforce, whether your business is you and one other, or you’re managing a larger group of people. Christmas isn’t the only religious festival happening over the holiday season, and some workers may need more time off than others. According to Personnel Today:

“While employees do not have the explicit right to time off for religious observance, a refusal to grant Christian employees time off for any of the bank holidays with religious significance could amount to indirect religious discrimination.”

Be pragmatic and try to keep your employees happy this December – you might even see a rise in productivity.

Office parties

Putting on a shindig for your employees over Christmas is the done thing in many businesses. Some choose to go out for a dinner, some have a full-blown party. However you and your colleagues decide to celebrate, you may be eligible to claim a Christmas party back on business expenses.

In a nutshell, you’re entitled as a director to put on an annual event for yourself and any staff members you employ – whether that’s a Crimbo party, or a summer BBQ for example. You can then reclaim the cost of the event as expenses, providing it meets certain conditions as outlined by HMRC.

The cost you can claim back is set at £150 per head and can include food, booze, travel and accommodation. The amount is calculated by dividing the total cost of the party by the number of attendees – perfect if you and your business partner only employ yourselves and fancy a slap up meal at a lavish restaurant. Be warned though, that £150 quid has to be spot on, not a penny more or you can’t claim anything back at all.

Gifts and perks

If you’re feeling extra generous this Christmas, you may want to gift your employees a little something to thank them for their hard work this year. Gifts or perks are known as benefits in kind.

If you’re giving cash as a bonus this year, you’ll need to add this to the employee’s annual salary and deduct both tax and National Insurance contributions, and if you’re dishing out gifts and presents to employees, the same rule applies. However, if the employee earns under £8,500 and the gift can’t be resold for cash, you don’t have to declare this to HMRC.

Gifts such as a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates would be classed as ‘trivial’ by HMRC and wouldn’t have to be run through payroll and be taxed.

If you’re a freelancer or contractor and want to give a gift to your client, you are eligible to do so once a year, and to the sum of £50. However, the gift has to be business related – so no rewarding with alcohol, food or other vices – and carry an advertisement for your business. A box of branded pens, or a diary for the subsequent year would be a great (albeit dull) example of a gift you could give to clients.

Turn off the tech

Encouraging your employees to switch off over Christmas time is important. Being “always on” might allow you to be one step ahead of your competitors, but why bother when everyone else has switched their emails to OOO?

A OnePoll survey found that 76% of entrepreneurs work during their festival break. This could have a huge impact on productivity and happiness, not to mention the all important work / life balance.

Unless you’re the real Father Christmas, checking your mobile for work-related comms is a big holiday no-no. Give yourself and employees the time off they need and allow them to come back after the festivities feeling (hopefully) recharged and refreshed.

Guinea pig photo by Katherine McAdoo

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