It’s that time of year when work festivities begin, and the work Christmas party is often the highlight of the year. These types of events are often anticipated by employees and can be a great opportunity to bring everyone together and finish the year on a high!
Even though the party might be held out of work hours and at a different location, if it is work organised, even if the event is held off site outside of working hours, the conduct of employees at the Christmas party is generally considered, from a legal standpoint, to be done “in the course of employment”!
With this in mind and you will no doubt want employees enjoy themselves and have fun, employers need to think not only of employment legislation but also the credibility and reputation of your Company. We don’t want you to worry about the implications of what might or could happen and we have put together some points to help you in the planning to avoid any issues and prove that you took reasonable steps to avoid any incidents from occurring.
Please don’t forget that when planning your festive event that not everyone celebrates Christmas, likes socialising, wishes to drink alcohol, or is not able to stay out late. Those people may feel that they be ostracised if they are not able to participate, so please ensure that everyone’s needs, wishes and feelings are considered and are treated with respect.
Some people have allergies and special dietary requirements, some religions do not allow certain foods and some people do not drink alcohol. So, in the planning stage, please ensure that there are plenty of options for everyone.
Prior to the Christmas event, make clear the standards of behaviour expected. This could be done via a companywide email and whilst this may seem a bit ‘bah humbug’, it is important that to protect your company that this is clear and has been clearly communicated. Inform your employees that they are representing the Company and as such should behave appropriately. Whilst you are not going to discipline staff for getting a little tipsy, fighting, being abusive, any form of discrimination or harassment or bringing the Company into disrepute would be taken very seriously.
If the party is held during the week, you may wish to consider a later start time, e.g., 10am instead of 9am or maybe employees could draw lots for staggered start times. In any case, remind employees that you expect them to come into work on time the following day or they should book annual leave. If you have the facilities, you could also consider encouraging the employees to make breakfast for each other to encourage everyone to come in on time.
You may wish to arrange for transport to take employees home once the event has ended. In any case, please ensure that the finish time for the event is communicated in order that employees can plan their journey home and order taxis in advance.
You may have employees who are under 18 and they are not allowed alcohol under the law and before the event, let them know that you want them to enjoy themselves, but they must not drink alcohol.
It is important that everyone is conscious of their behaviour and what they say at the event – you don’t want managers talking about other employees, offering pay rises or promotions!
If any allegations are made during or after the event or if there are any unsavoury incidents, the key thing to remember is to follow your usual disciplinary process and ensure that any complaint is investigated thoroughly before any action is taken. However, if anything does happen, please don’t discipline employees at the party itself. Send the employee(s) home, if appropriate, and deal with the incident when you are back at work.
Remember that a well- managed Christmas party is great fun and can provide a significant boost to morale and loyalty, which for many businesses could be invaluable after what may have been a challenging year.
So that just leaves us to wish you a happy festive season and a great new year from the advo HR Team!