Christmas Party HR Issues – Are you ready?

As the festive season draws closer, it’s time for HR professionals and business owners across the UK to dust off the dreaded memo, put on their sternest ‘teacher voice’ and remind everyone to be on the very best of behaviour.…

James Richardson, author of blog about Christmas Party HR Issues

Blog6th Dec 2023

By James Richardson

As the festive season draws closer, it’s time for HR professionals and business owners across the UK to dust off the dreaded memo, put on their sternest ‘teacher voice’ and remind everyone to be on the very best of behaviour. The Christmas party can often lead to a host of HR Issues. A report by the CIPD found that 1 in 10 workers know of someone from their organisation that was dismissed or even disciplined for behaving inappropriately specifically at the Christmas Party.

Sometimes it can be a struggle to balance what is meant to be an opportunity for light-hearted, festive fun with colleagues against the backdrop of ensuring everyone remains professional and safe throughout – especially where alcohol is concerned! Ultimately, it’s important we all remember that any event organised by an employer, regardless of location or timing, is very much going to be considered an extension of the workplace.

This means you will have a duty of care to any team members who may be attending and will need to take steps to show you reasonably tried to mitigate potential issues from arising. With this in mind, we have detailed our top tips for handling workplace events to ensure the headache of overindulgence does not extend beyond the following morning.

We’ve put together four top tips to make sure your business stays squeaky clean this Christmas:

1. Be Inclusive

Taking an inclusive approach will help avoid any potential claim of discrimination against the business, and ensure your party is a success with everyone’s enjoyment at the centre of your planning. You should:

  • Take care to invite everyone. You may have people working from home or out of the business due to absence or family friendly leave, so remember to make the extra effort and extend the invite fully – a flyer next to the kettle isn’t going to cut it.
  • Be mindful that not everyone will want to attend, perhaps due to other commitments or simply because they don’t feel comfortable doing so, but make sure people aren’t left feeling pressured to attend.
  • Consider a few simple tweaks to your party planning to be more inclusive. For example, making sure there are plenty of alcohol-fee options (and that drinking is not the main event), try a daytime occasion which may be more accessible, or even consider focusing less on Christmas and more on the company’s success over the course of the year.

2. Be clear on what is expected

Where there are a number of employees who have had one too many, this can lead to undesirable behaviours and incidents for you to deal with. Whilst you cannot ban kissing under the mistletoe or stop office rivalry descending into an argument after a few drinks, you can be clear with everyone that the event they are attending is work related, and as such the usual policies and procedures will still apply, and inappropriate behaviour will be addressed as normal. Finally, sensible behaviour at workplace events should be encouraged from the top of the organisation, so senior management should lead by example to avoid situations escalating.

A simple message can be enough to remind everyone what is expected of them throughout the event.

3. Alcohol CONSUMPTION

An alcohol-free Christmas party is fairly unheard of, and supplying alcohol offers employees the chance to unwind and socialise with their colleagues, so a prohibition of alcohol is not suggested by any means. However, when employees drink to excess, potential issues can arise in terms of health and safety, sexual harassment and fighting to name a few. We would recommend the following:

  • Avoid a free bar all night to discourage over indulgence
  • Have a plentiful supply of water and other soft drinks available, including for employees who do not drink for health or religious reasons
  • Be clear with employees they are responsible for drinking in moderation
  • Ensure one or more people are responsible for watching out for employees who are drinking to excess

4. TRANSPORT

With strict drink driving rules in force, safe transport after a festive event is particularly important.  You should ensure team members are aware of the rules, and:

  • Advise them not to ever drink and drive
  • Remind them to ensure they are fit to drive the following day, especially if the next day is a working day
  • End the event when public transport is still running, or organise taxis/buses to ensure everyone can get home safely

In any case, whatever happens at your festive events, we will be here to discuss the concerns or questions you may have and provide support with the next steps.

If you would like further information on this, support in creating a Christmas party memo, or any other aspects of managing the employment life cycle, please do not hesitate to get in contact with James Richardson, or one of our HR and Employment Specialists

By James Richardson

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