It’s the Christmas party at work. What could possibly go wrong?
The Office Christmas Party is a long standing tradition and getting the whole team together before Christmas for some festive party fun is a great way to end the year.
But is it a recipe for disaster which could be more fiery than your Christmas pudding.
It is the season of good will and a time for some employers to thank their staff with a festive event. Morale will be high so it’s important to plan to minimise any staffing issues that many arise as a direct result of the celebrations.
It can be a risky game for employers to play: inappropriate behaviour, unwanted advances, discrimination and misconduct could all make an uninvited appearance.
It is important that as an employer, you manage the risk of staff misconduct, grievance and other HR related issues.
What many staff seem to be ignorant of is that any Christmas event that is work related is an extension of the workplace and as such Employers are liable for third party actions.
As society and the workplace is more and more diverse today, many staff events cater for different religions, and not all the entire workforce may want to join in boozy events. Ensure that you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. You must not make it compulsory for all staff to attend and you need to think about the composition of the workforce. Ensure that there is a vegetarian choice on the menu. The key area for a grievance to be raised is where an employee feels that they have been discriminated against is at the Christmas Party.
So what can you do to manage the issues that can arise from Christmas Parties:-
• Remind staff that normal rules of behaviour apply even off the premises and that the party venue is an extension of the workplace. As an employer you have a duty of care so you are still responsible.
• Remind staff about discrimination as any inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas Party is considered in the same way as working hours.
• Remind staff not to drink and drive and to make suitable arrangements to get home if they want to drink. Consider the use of organising a mini bus to pick up and take people home. If you don’t want to fund this then you could offer to arrange/organise this for staff on the basis that they will have to pay for this service. Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available.
• Inform staff that over indulging at the Christmas Party doesn’t excuse them from coming into work the next day. If you operate a Monday to Friday business consider holding the event either on a Friday or Saturday night.
• Don’t forget to invite staff who are on Maternity /Paternity. You must also include Agency workers, fixed term temporary and part time staff
• Do not make it compulsory to attend. It might clash with non-Christian religious dates
• If you employee under 18 years olds you need to consider the venue if you hold it off work premises to ensure that they allow under 18’s on the premises
• If you employ disabled staff who have access requirements you need to ensure that the venue is fully accessible
• If you are providing alcoholic drinks don’t provide them free all night. Speak with the Bar staff so that they can remain vigilant in case any staff are drunk.
• Alcohol can cause unwanted sexual advances and can fuel fights between even the best of friends.
• If an employee becomes intoxicated it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee is taken home safely.
Hopefully your Christmas party will be people-problem-free, so I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
By Si Harrison