December 28, 2018

Festive Feast Part 2 “The Turkey”

festive roast turkey steaming on a plate with potatoes

The main course; traditionally meat though not everyone’s cup of tea.

Festrive Christmas lunches and dinners for staff are a common way of socialising and thanking employees for a year of hard work. But as most know it can lead to problems. Managing expectations on the food front is only one issue but deciding on a menu can be challenging for a culturally diverse group of employees.

Giving a turkey for Christmas.

Most people have heard, if not read the Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol” staring Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit the eponymous bad employer and good employee. After being shown the error of his ways Scrooge repents and sends the under paid and over worked Bob the biggest prize turkey from the local poulterer’s shop. That tradition has led to many employers giving employees a turkey for Christmas. But the gift isn’t always quite what it seems or that easy to deal with. Scrooge clearly gave no thought to the Cratchit’s cooking facilities and Dickens doesn’t reveal whether they roasted it in front of the fire or found a communal oven for the enormous bird. Some critics see the tale of Scrooge and his grand gesture not as a sign of him being a reformed employer but a warning of consumerism to come.

Frozen fowl

With more vegetarians and vegans amongst employees the work Christmas turkey may have had its day. But when an employer did decide it was the right gift they perhaps didn’t think it through. They ordered 50 frozen turkeys; one for each employee. Not having done a logistics study it could have become the stuff of nightmares. Employees weren’t given time off to take them home and there was nowhere to store the fowl things. Whilst many struggle to thaw a bird in time in this case those with birds on the outside of the pile feared defrosting would come about all too soon.

Getting goosed

An alternative older tradition is Goose. Often bought at a Goose fair like that in Nottingham to which geese were driven there on foot by farmers and their workers from 50 and more miles away. The long hard hours of labour to provide a feast can be forgotten. Farmers might not have to work quite so hard today to get their birds to market but the film “Laughterhouse” made in 1984 tells the story of the farmer who walks his hundreds of geese to market to circumvent a strike. Of course “getting goosed” has a whole different connotation and for employers avoiding the fall out of “#metoo” is an issue. Even a peck on the cheek at Christmas may be a step too far.

The Vegetables

Traditional Christmas vegetables, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and sprouts are generally grown on UK farms rather than imported. What we do import are seasonal workers and that’s one of the Brexit issues. The NFU and MPs have called for special arrangements for migrant workers amid fears that fruit and veg will be left to rot without this labour. A new scheme set to run as a pilot for two years will allow for 2,500 non EU six month seasonal workers whilst EU labour will still be free to come during that time. Of course where we will be after that is still unclear so you may want to start your own veggie patch or look into pick your own for Christmas veg in the next decade.

But for one employee, back in 2010, his colleague’s Christmas meal was too much. The hospital where he worked allowed eating and drinking only in designated places and required payment for all food. The employee was dismissed for eating a piece of garlic bread left on a tray. He complained that other staff of different ethnic origins had even got away with eating a Christmas dinner. The EAT remitted the case to the tribunal for further rumination as they hadn’t looked to see if their decision was tainted by discrimination.

Next time –  Desserts just or not

Edit 49a2. This newsletter looks at new cases and employment related matters, which are likely to be of interest to many. However specialist advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking action based on comments in this newsletter, which is only intended as a brief note. For more information or if you have specific concerns phone me on 01233 714055 or

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