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The Ultimate Employee Christmas Gift Guide

It’s fair to say that the gift of spare time at work is probably not something that Human Resources departments up and down the country are receiving this holiday season — especially if you’ve been tasked with arranging Christmas gifts for employees in your workplace.

When you add into the mix the on-going cost-of-living crisis and the fact that many of our budgets are stretched like never before, you're likely to be feeling significantly under pressure. 

There’s no need to panic just yet though.

If you think about it carefully, finding the right gifts for employees shouldn’t be too difficult. To help, we've created this blog: the ultimate employee Christmas gift guide!

For the traditionalists: The time-honoured Christmas hamper!

Hampers (boxes filled with food items that don’t go off quickly) have been a traditional Christmas gift for at least a century. They actually have their origins in employer gifts to employees. Hampers 100 years ago were boxes of fruit, cakes and other gifts that wealthy Victorian families would give to their servants and the poor on 26th December (otherwise known as ‘Boxing Day’).

Hampers then are a Christmas gift that have a clear link to the employer/ employee dynamic and are a good option to choose if you want to choose an elegant, useful and versatile Christmas gift that has a clear nod to historic Christmas traditions. There's usually excellent value for money and provide a variety of items that appeal to the vast majority of people. 

What’s in a staff Christmas hamper?

Hampers can be filled with whatever you want: it’s traditional to fill them with non-perishable food items though. Nowadays, you can find themed hampers that are focused on one particular area, like fine wines, cheese or chocolate, but general hampers that provide the traditional Christmas spread are still very popular.

It’s more usual for employers to buy pre-assembled hampers in bulk from an employer to save time and resources, but if you opt to fill the hamper yourself, here’s a traditional selection of things to include:

  • Biscuits
  • Pickles, jams and chutneys
  • Wine
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Sweets
  • Tea and/or coffee

How much do employee Christmas hampers cost?

If you want to save time and you choose to buy the hampers pre-assembled, there are loads of places online to choose from, some specific to businesses and some open to the general public. As with most things, the quality and quantity of items that you receive in a hamper will generally vary depending on how much you pay for. On average, a general, good-quality hamper will probably cost around £80, a cheap hamper about £30 and a luxury hamper around £150 plus.

If you let your supplier know that you’re buying on behalf of a business, you may be able to negotiate a special discounted rate for buying in bulk, so don’t be too concerned at these prices just yet — you don’t know until you ask t!

Christmas hamper suppliers

Here are some of the main suppliers of Christmas hampers for employees in the UK:

Workers with Christmas hats in an office, gathered around a table with food and sweets

For the creative: Personalised presents

Personalised presents work best in small workplaces where it’s easy to form a close relationship with employees and really get to know one another, so this might not necessarily work for larger workplaces. If you have the time, energy and budget though, selecting a personalised present can really help to make your employees feel valued and appreciated.  

There has been an explosion in websites that allow you to personalise gift items over the last couple of years, which means that delivering personalised presents at scale is should be relatively affordable and hassle free now.

The level of personalisation that you choose depends on your energy level (and your budget!) You could go down the soft personalisation route, for example, by giving a gift that’s been customised to a degree — like a mug with that employee’s name on it. Or you could could go down the more adventurous route and buy specific gifts, unique to the particular interests and likes of that person.  

Some suppliers that specialise in personalised presents include:

  • Getting Personal
    • A large range of customisable products that can be adapted to most people
  • Oh So Cherished
    • Kitschy range of personalised stationery, homeware and jewellery
  • Wonderbly
    • Customised books, including fiction and non-fiction
Three office workers wearing Christmas clothes putting up decorations

For the time-strapped: Gift cards

The beauty of a gift card over money is that you can be sure that your employee will use it to go towards a treat for themselves. With a cash payment, there is always the danger that your employees might just use something intended to reward them on something mundane — for example, paying a bill or adding to a savings account (of course, they could always use it to get a gift for another person, but that’s a different story...) Gift cards encourage us to reward ourselves in the present and encourage us to have a little fun for once.

In a cost of living crisis, gift cards are often a lifeline to employees who find that their budgets are at breaking point. Giving one to your employees can really make the difference when 

They’re useful for employers because they’re a flexible, practical and adaptable gift that can be personalised by the employee themselves.

Types of gift cards

So, if you’re planning on going down the gift card route for a present, you’ll need to actually choose which type you want to give. And there are a lot of gift cards to choose from: from cards that you can spend at one retailer, physically or digitally, through to cards you can spend at multiple shops. 

You’ll usually be able to buy gift cards directly from your chosen retailer, as well as from supermarkets. Here are three the most popular choices for Christmas gift cards for employees:

Amazon gift card

Wirth an unparalleled amount of products to choose from, Amazon gift cards are truly versatile and are a good choice if you don’t want to spend time thinking about which specific type of gift card would be best for your company. In fact, digital Amazon gift cards (an increasingly popular choice) can be transferred and redeemed instantly, saving HR professionals time when it comes to giving the card and employees time in redeeming it.

Supermarket gift cards

The majority of UK supermarkets like Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda offer gift cards that can be redeemed in their stores. Gift cards for supermarkets are a good choice if you’re not particularly bothered about what your employees spend the money on and you don’t mind it going towards the cost of a weekly shop. The versatility of these gift cards comes in the fact that practically every town or city will have at least one of the supermarkets mentioned, allowing you to pick up gift cards in a pinch — great if you’ve left it until the last minute.

Multi-shop gift cards

Whilst most gift cards can only be redeemed at one specific shop, some gift cards exist that can be redeemed at multiple shops. You can usually buy them in supermarkets, where you’d buy other gift cards. The beauty of this type of card is the fact that your employee gets to choose the shop that they spend it at, allowing them to personalise the gift further.

For the overwhelmed: Money

If your workload is busy enough without having to find personalised presents for 300 people, you could just take the easy option. By that we mean, just giving your employees cold, hard cash to spend themselves on what they want — usually in the form of a bonus payment on top of their December salary.

Whilst it’s not the most imaginative way to give a gift, it’s probably the most flexible for both employer and employee. After all, employees can do whatever they want with the payment, using the money in the way that would bring most satisfaction to them, and employers don’t have to go to the effort of sourcing and delivering physical gifts. Everybody wins!

That said, just giving money can look a bit depersonalised, so it could be useful to consider some ways to add a bit of character to the way that you’re delivering the bonus — rather than just relying on your email software to do it’s digital thing. Personalisation is your friend here. Consider doing something like the following to make your gift of money look a bit more human:

  • Create a Christmas card for each employee with a personalised message to announce the bonus
  • Throw an in-office Christmas event and announce the bonus there

There is one important thing to bear in mind if you plan on giving money as a gift though ­– it is taxed as normal earnings by HMRC so your employee will be have tax and national insurance contributions deducted from it. This can end up reducing the size of the bonus overall.

Office worker putting out Christmas decorations

For the pragmatic: Work-related gifts

Employees in a company aren’t one homogenous group of people with exactly the same interests, likes and dislikes — a workplace is one of the most diverse places of human psychology you’re likely to find in society. Whilst that’s interesting from the perspective of a psychologist or sociologist, it can be quite annoying when you’re trying to bulk-buy gifts that everyone in the workplace will like.

It might not seem the most imaginative theme, but if you’re in a pinch for an idea, buying work or office-related gifts can be a really good solution. That’s because, generally speaking, apart from a tiny bit of personalisation, there’s not much that someone could object to about office-focused gifts — they’re practical and they aren’t too overly personalised.

When we say work-related gifts, we’re referring to items that someone might use, or might have, in a workplace. Think office stationery, fans, mugs, etc.

Here are some good sites to use if you’re in search of some useful office gifts:

French Duncan has some useful advice about the tax implications of employee gifts at Christmas, so it’s worth a quick read to make sure that you aren’t falling foul of the HMRC grinch.

Overall, there is an exemption of £50.00 for employee gifts. This means that as long as the total cost of your gift (including VAT) comes to £50.00 or less, it won’t be taxable. If it goes just a penny over, you’ll need to declare the gift however. 

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

We hope this humble blog has provided you with some useful ideas if you’ve been tasked with buying Christmas presents for employees in your workplace. Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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