Last reviewed 3 December 2013


In a childcare provision, the focus, as we come towards the festive season, is on the children — and Christmas is a time for children. However, staff matter too, so give a little thought to issues that may affect them around this time of year. Val Moore reports.

The holiday period

If the provision’s holiday year finishes at the end of December, staff do not have a lot of time to take their holiday entitlement. This may cause problems within a childcare provision, particularly where the provision opens over the Christmas period, as most staff want to be with their own family and friends at that time.

Although, that said, it has been known for some staff, across all sections of industry, to prefer to have an “excuse” of having to work in the period between Christmas and New Year!

Should the provision remain open, ask parents whether they intend to use the facility and when. It may well be that the provision will not need to operate at full capacity and therefore some reduction can be made in staff numbers.

Ask for volunteers to work during that period, but stress that the employer reserves the right to roster duties if necessary. A ballot may be a way of being as fair as possible.

Check the holiday entitlement for all staff and encourage them to take any unused leave. The employer may, at its discretion, allow staff to carry over leave to the following holiday year, but should emphasise that this is a one-off concession and not an automatic right. (Note that a full-time employee must take a minimum of 20 days’ leave, out of their annual 28 days’ entitlement; pro-rata for part-time staff).

An employer can also tell staff to reserve some of their holiday entitlement to be taken at a particular time (ie a Christmas shutdown), but notice must be given for this.

Christmas parties

Christmas is a time for parties. Do be considerate of all religions. Consider dietary requirements if the employer or staff are supplying food. It is usual in a childcare provision for alcohol not to be served on the premises, but if an exception is made, ensure sufficient non-alcoholic drinks are available for those who do not drink alcohol, or who are driving.

The vast majority of non-Christians are very happy that Christmas is celebrated; keep Christmas, Christmas.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa present giving is a good way for everyone to receive a present, but without too much cost. Names of all participants are put in a hat; each person draws out a name of the person for whom they are to buy a present (keeping secret the name of the recipient). Sometimes participants may have a short list of things they would like to receive (such a list for everyone can be put on a notice board, or circulated).

Be very clear on the maximum amount that can be spent on the gift. Do not set the level too high to avoid embarrassment for those who may find the costs difficult. Remind everyone that items that are risqué or offensive are not acceptable.

Staff giving each other Christmas cards is often seen as a “chore that must be done”. Suggest they put a cash donation of the amount they would have spent on cards and give it to charity instead. It may only be £10, but it is £10 the charity did not have before.

If, as an employer, you are giving discretionary bonuses, do ensure you do not discriminate on who does or does not receive them. Bonuses paid before Christmas are most welcome. Otherwise a small, thoughtful, individually chosen gift rarely goes amiss, rather than a one-size-fits-all bouquet of flowers or box of chocolates. Here’s a tip — look at the Secret Santa lists.

Presents from parents and carers

Some provisions have a policy regarding staff accepting presents from parents and carers. If the provision does have one, remind parents and staff of its contents. If the provision does not have a formal policy, consider giving some guidelines. This can avoid embarrassment.

Keep the cost of any gift at a reasonable level; perhaps suggest that the most suitable gifts are those that are given to the provision as a whole. This can avoid some staff receiving more gifts than others or the keyworker being given a gift, but not the book-keeper and cook.

Suggest perhaps that gifts to the provision are made as “new year” gifts, so more perishable items such as flowers and fruit give a “lift” to staff after returning from the Christmas holidays.

Finally, here is a thought on happiness.

Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.

Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.