Employee Christmas and New Year Parties and HR issues to consider
The Office Christmas and New Year Parties are a long-standing tradition and are not just limited to office staff. It is the season of good will and a time for some employers to thank their staff with a festive event. Morale will be high so it is important to plan to minimise any staffing issues that may arise as a direct result of the celebrations.
There are many tales of “shenanigan’s” and “goings on” that happen at, or after Christmas “do’s”. In sober moments after the event there may be many blushes, and for employers it can bring a host of issues. This can be potentially damaging for the employers in numerous ways and not least if events attract media attention.
It is also important that as an employer, you manage the risk of staff misconduct, grievance and other HR related issues.
What many staff may not appreciate is that of any Christmas or New Year event that is work related is an extension of the workplace and as such employers are usually liable for the actions of their employees.
As society and the workplace becomes more and more diverse today, many staff events now cater for different religions, and not all the entire workforce may want to join in and have a tipple or two…!! Ensure that there is access to non-alcoholic drinks.
You must not make it compulsory for all staff to attend and you need to think about the composition of the workforce. Ensure that there is a vegetarian choice on the menu. Whilst the Christmas or New Year Party is an occasion for festive cheer, it is also an area that causes concern among employers in terms of grievances that are often raised.
So what can you do to manage the issues that can arise from such Parties?
- Remind staff that normal rules of behaviour apply even off the premises and that the party venue is an extension of the workplace. As an employer you have a duty of care to ensure the well-being of your staff and so you can still be held vicariously liable for their behaviour at the Company’s Party.
- Remind staff about discrimination and sex discrimination policies. They need to be reminded that any inappropriate behaviour at the office do will be treated the same way as during normal working hours.
- Remind staff not to drink and drive and to make suitable arrangements to get home if they want to drink. Consider organising a mini bus/or taxis to pick up or take people home.
- Inform staff that overindulging at the Party doesn’t excuse them from coming into work the next day. If you operate a Monday to Friday business consider holding the event either on a Friday or Saturday night.
- Don’t forget to invite staff who are on Maternity/Paternity/Leave. You must also include Agency workers, fixed term, temporary and part time staff.
- Do not make it compulsory to attend as it may clash with religious dates or beliefs.
- If you employ under 18s and hold your event off work premises you need to ensure that the venue is suitable and that no age restrictions apply.
- If you employ disabled staff who have access requirements, you need to ensure that the venue is fully accessible.
- If you are providing free alcoholic drinks, think about a cut off point. Excess consumption of alcohol can lead to unwanted sexual advances and unnecessary arguments even between the best of friends.
- If an employee becomes intoxicated, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee is taken home safely.