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The dos and don’ts of staff Christmas parties

Make sure your festive celebrations are remembered for good reasons

After your people have worked hard for you throughout the year, having a Christmas do can be a great way to show your appreciation. It can also be an opportunity for staff to relax and build more personal relationships with you and their colleagues.

However, too much alcohol can make people do things they later regret and this can end up giving them and you, the business owner, far greater problems to have to deal with than a terrible hangover the next day.

How to prepare your business for a Christmas party

Acas provides “free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law”. In its post, Common pitfalls of the Christmas party and how to avoid them, it makes the key point that: “It’s important to remember that employment laws apply even when a party takes place [beyond] the workplace. This means that employers may be liable for incidents of harassment that take place at work-related social events and could face tribunal claims.”

Acas says “drink-fuelled behaviour” can lead to tribunal claims and it urges employers to remind their staff what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at staff social events. Crucially, employers should explain the likely consequences if employees are guilty of unacceptable behaviour – up to and including dismissal for gross misconduct.

Mitigating risk

Employers are also advised by Acas to try to limit the amount of free alcohol made available at Christmas work dos, and to be inclusive and “sensitive to employees who don’t drink alcohol or who don’t eat certain foods.”

If you don’t have a staff policy for work social events, Personnel Today recommends creating one and circulating it before your Christmas do. It also recommends “issuing a statement to employees” reminding them of the dangers of consuming too much alcohol at work social events and explaining what constitutes harassment and that it will lead to disciplinary action.

Be inclusive

Not all team members will want or be able to attend your Christmas party. According to Out-Law.com: “Christmas is a Christian holiday, so do not pressure someone to attend if they do not want to on religious grounds.” Moreover, some people may have family responsibilities that prevent them from coming.

Secret Santa gifts to be opened on the night or in the workplace should not be offensive and you should remind your people of your social media policy, to prevent them posting any photographs online that bring your business into disrepute.

Health and safety

If you’re planning to have your Christmas party at your premises, Rooks Rider Solicitors says you should carry out a risk assessment in advance, make sure first aid boxes are well stocked and that your insurance will still be valid.

Rooks Rider also recommends that employers review their sickness policy, as some employees could be tired or hungover the day after a Christmas party, and mistakenly believe it’s OK to come in late or take the day off sick. One way around the problem for businesses that operate Monday to Friday working hours is to hold their Christmas party on a Friday, in which case morning after the night before hangovers won’t affect productivity or attendance.

Disciplinary action

If you receive any HR-related complaints following your Christmas staff do this year, Patrick J Farrell and Company Solicitors says they should be “treated seriously and investigated promptly.” And if any disciplinary action is taken, it should be “appropriate, proportionate and consistently applied”.

Key DOS and DON’TS

DO remember that employment laws apply to work social events.

DON’T think that your business will not be liable for harassment or discrimination.

DO remind your staff what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at work social events.

DONT neglect to tell your staff what could happen if they’re guilty of unacceptable behaviour.

DO create a staff policy for social events and circulate it to all your staff.

DON’T take it for granted that people will know what is acceptable and unacceptable.

DO limit the amount of free alcohol that is available.

DON’T forget to provide non-alcoholic alternatives for staff who don’t or cannot drink.

DO lead by example by limiting your alcohol intake.

DON’T expect all staff members to be able to attend.

DO remind your staff of your sickness policy.

DON’T hesitate to take disciplinary action if required.

Read more:

10 ways to prepare your business for Christmas

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