The Christmas party season is now well and truly upon us. Following the disruption caused by the pandemic which meant parties were held virtually or put on hold, this year employers are now returning to more traditional celebrations.
The annual Christmas bash is a great way to reward staff and boost morale. However, if not managed correctly these social occasions can often present risks for employers, with alcohol induced absences and inappropriate behaviour. Here are some tips for avoiding a HR hangover during the festive work celebrations.
- Employees should be reminded that despite an event being held outside of business hours, they are still representing their organisation when attending a party in a public venue. Set the boundaries and make it clear what conduct is expected, and that disciplinary action may arise from any unacceptable behaviour.
- Sexual harassment is the most likely claim to arise from a work Christmas party due to inappropriate, drunken behaviour. Remind employees of bullying and harassment policies to prevent unwanted grievances. Employers should also be mindful that employees can also make a complaint even if the inappropriate behaviour is not directed at them.
- Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but nevertheless all employees should be invited to the celebrations including those on maternity and/or paternity leave and long-term sick. If your party involves activities such as go-karting or ten pin bowling, check that everyone can attend to avoid potential discrimination claims.
- It would be a good idea to hold your Christmas party during the weekend to avoid any alcohol induced absences. If this is not practical, remind employees that they are expected in work as usual the next day unless they book annual leave. Refer to your alcohol and drugs policy and consider allowing employees to arrive in work a little later than usual the next day to avoid unauthorised absences.
- We live in a digital world with smartphones and cameras at the tip of our fingers. Anyone wishing to share content on their personal social media accounts should do so using common sense and make sure what they post is appropriate. Remind employees of social media policies so expectations are clear from the outset.
- Show a duty of care towards staff and avoid problems on the road at the end of the night by providing taxi numbers or offering to pay for transport home.
- As a manager, this is not the time to undertake a performance appraisal and give feedback to staff, especially if you’re under the influence of alcohol. Don’t promise any salary increases – even at a work party a promise could still potentially be argued to amount to a contractual change.
- Similarly, do not be tempted to discipline employees at the party itself. Send the employee(s) home, if appropriate, and deal with the incident in the workplace and during working time. Deal with any complaints from the night in a timely manner, ensuring you carry out a full investigation before deciding on any disciplinary action.
There’s no need to feel like a Scrooge this Christmas but if you are an employer that is facing the Christmas season with some trepidation, please feel free to contact us for a confidential, no-obligation chat on 01942 727200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org