POSTED: December 05 2022
Christmas Parties and Misconduct

Read everything you need to know about Christmas parties, misconduct, bribery, gifts, and workplace relationships

Christmas Parties and Misconduct

In the current economic climate, some employers may have been considering the most appropriate way to celebrate the festive season.

Some may choose to celebrate as they would do usually, and some may alter their approach. There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important that organisations have taken the time to consider the message they are sending to their employees and the reasoning for their choices. 

Some businesses may consider gifts or supplementary monies for being awarded to their team, instead of a party and those specific gifts or monies that may attract additional tax implications, and thus not achieve the welcome one had hoped for. If this is your preferred option, you might wish to speak to your payroll provider to better understand how you can provide employees with some financial support. That is, in a way in which they receive this amount in full while the organisation pays the tax and NI. If you would like to speak to the advo Payroll Team to fully understand any potential implications and how advo can support you moving forward, then please do get in touch.

If you do hold a gathering, especially one which may involve alcohol, and whilst you may not wish to dampen the excitement around any event, it remains important to review and, as appropriate, share any policy relating to work social events. 

advo recommends this as it is always good to remind everyone of how they should behave, and of how any misconduct or harassment issues would be dealt with. 

We recommend this to protect you because an employer can be held vicariously liable for an employee’s behaviour at work events. Moreover, this is recommended since the employer needs to be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to reduce the chances of any harassment or related incidents.

We have highlighted a few points for you to think about:

  • Please remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas, for this reason some businesses choose to call their party a festive celebration.  Please also try to remember to ensure that non-alcoholic drinks are available and different dietary requirements are catered for to avoid anyone feeling left out. 
  • You may wish to consider limiting the alcohol intake at the venue by limiting any free drinks.
  • Please remind your managers that they represent the organisation, so whilst you want them to have a good time and enjoy themselves, it is good to remind them that they should be setting a good example to their employees. Please also remind them that, if they behave badly or say something that they wouldn’t normally say in the workplace, then this may undermine them at work.
  • Please always extend the invitation to everyone. You may have employees who celebrate another faith and thus may feel uncomfortable attending. Likewise, others may have caring responsibilities, or some may simply not wish to attend. However, please don’t assume someone will say no, and it is always inclusive to invite everyone and allow them to make a decision as to whether or not they wish to attend. 
  • Please also remember to extend the invitation to any employee who may be on maternity/paternity/shared/adoption leave, as well as those on sick leave. Please also accommodate any employee who may be disabled and ensure that any chosen venue doesn’t prohibit them from attending.
  • If during or after a work social event a complaint is received or an incident is witnessed, these should be taken seriously and investigated under the correct procedures. 
  • It is possible that, with the mixture of alcohol and high spirits, that there is the potential for boundaries between someone’s professional & personal life to become blurred, this could result in incidents and escalations. 
  • No disciplinary action should ever be taken at the event, as a full and thorough process would need to be made.  However, if necessary, please send any employee behaving badly home and take the relevant steps at the first opportunity when back in the workplace.
  • If an incident does occur during the Christmas festivities, or indeed at any time, please do speak to your dedicated HR consultant here at advo and we will be more than happy to be able to advise you accordingly. If you are not a HR client but would like to know more about our HR services, then please do get in touch and we would welcome a conversation with you. 

Bribery and Gifts 

At this time of year, you and your employees are more likely to be giving your clients or customers gifts, or you may be receiving them yourselves. 

It is important that if you have a gifting policy, or something that is covered in your Anti-Bribery policy, that you again remind employees of the protocol for giving and receiving a gift. 

The policy should detail what should happen in the event of an employee receiving a gift, i.e., whether they are able to accept it, what qualifies as an acceptable gift, the value of the gift etc. 

This policy should outline the procedure the employee should take if they do receive a gift, and should also outline what can be given as a gift from the company, as well as the consequences for a breach of this policy. Such guidelines should be shared in advance with all employees, so they are aware of what is acceptable. And, if in doubt, the employees should be encouraged to check with their line manager prior to giving or accepting any gifts.

Personal Relationships

Whilst every employee has the right to a private life, it is important that any personal relationship at work, whether that be romantic or friendly, does not affect work. This is especially the case in a small business with the manager line managing their partner and, for example, also approving bonuses and salary increases. These situations can become even more difficult if there is a breakdown of a relationship too. 

Such personal relationships can come to the fore during the festive season, and advo would always advise employers to have a policy on relationships at work to make it clear to all parties how these should be conducted.

Employee Welfare

This time of year can be especially difficult for some people. Employees may have suffered a breakdown in a relationship and in their home life, or perhaps sadly lost a loved one. This time of year may, therefore, be particularly poignant and these individuals may need some extra support at this difficult time. 

If you do offer access to an Employee Assistance Programme in your employee benefits, this can offer the confidential support needed to help an employee through a difficult time. If you would like to know more on employee wellbeing, then please do get in touch with your contact at advo for more information.

Festive workplace events can be tricky to navigate, they can either be full of joy & fun, or they can be quite unpleasant if not properly organised and regulated.