A present is always included in the modern cracker. When invented in 1847 contents originally included a sweet but these fairly quickly changed to gifts. What were your childhood favourites? The fortune telling fish, pack of tiny cards, or fake moustache? The original Tom Smith company scoured the world for small and interesting gifts, often themed for different celebrations from Valentines to Coronations as well as Christmas. There have even been requests to make one off crackers with a diamond ring so a chap can “pop” the question. The range remains enormous from the pound shop plastic novelties to West End jeweller’s solid silver gifts. It all depends on your taste and pocket.
Whether you get a tacky plastic comb or a jewel encrusted tiara depends on the circles you move in. Apparently the queen likes fairly homely gifts too. Rumour has that she liked a box with penny whistles; each a different note. It is lovely to think the royal family might manage a musical performance after the Christmas lunch.
Gifts at work
At work the Christmas bonus is the obvious prize in the annual cracker. From the tax point of view make sure your accountant/bookkeeper knows what you are doing so the tax issues are properly taken into account. Tax and NI are due on cash and gifts which are more than trivial. Plastic combs are probably trivial but don’t take my word for it. Further whatever it is it must be a true “gift” not a reward for work done. Also you need to consider whether employees have a right to that bonus. If they are entitled to the bonus under their employment contract it must be paid and is taxable. However even if it’s a discretionary bonus (stated as discretionary in the contract or even more informal) be careful. If you give it every year it can become contractual by practice and procedure.
Other practical ways of giving a “gift” to staff may be training. Investing in people can be a really good gift. “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day teach him to fish and he eats every day”. And a business benefits from a more skilled employee too. But training may not just be in the traditional work related skills. If there is tension in the workplace could some subtle diversity training be useful or even during downtime have someone come in to offer yoga or art course? They may sound frivolous but an indirect solution may work and not be as expensive as you think. Another example might be offering an apprenticeship? Don’t treat them as cheap labour. They help someone, not necessarily young, learn skills and can really benefit a business.
Give me time
Time. None of us have enough of it so offering time can be a real gift. It might be flexible working hours, home working or extra holiday. Well thought out, any of these can benefit a business, as well as the employee. So if you are an employee asking for flexible working think about how it can benefit your employer as well as you. They are more likely to say yes and give you credit for looking beyond your own needs.
There many ways of giving a gift so use your imagination. Short of money? Perhaps the cheapest gift is saying “Thank You.” But if you want it to have value it does need to be genuine and properly delivered. An impersonal pre-printed Christmas card may not hit the spot. So time spent remembering specific things well done with personal good wishes for Christmas and the following year may be worth the effort and are not taxable. Just be careful what you say and don’t get caught up in discrimination or office politics. Employees might think about saying thank you too, to colleagues, customers or even the boss!
Next the last part – the Crown –
What do you call Santa in the desert?- Sandy Claus
Edit 47a3. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously “The Snap” and “The Joke”
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