As Christmas fast approaches…….

Christmas Party – Tips to Help Yule Get Through It!

By Catherine Addley  |  Paralegal
Employment / Commercial

As Christmas fast approaches, it is common for employers to organise a staff party to spread a little Christmas cheer.  Whilst that is a lovely sentiment, you should bear in mind that such an event is deemed to be an extension of work and so, however low key it is, a management nightmare before Christmas could result. Statistics released by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) reported that 77% of staff have seen their colleagues drink too much while 50% have reported that they heard too much personal information being shared at their staff bash.  Furthermore the ILM has reported that 16% of those asked saw colleagues removing items of their clothing and 35% had witnessed people kissing.

Some employers now opt for different ways of spreading the cheer, such as issuing gift vouchers or Christmas hampers.  If however your Christmas party is already booked, please do not fear as we’ve set out below some handy hints for you to make sure it is a positive experience for all.

Policy on work-related social events

Make sure that you provide clear written guidance to your workforce about the acceptable standards of behaviour at parties and work events generally.  Specify the disciplinary sanctions that could result from breaches of the rules so that everyone is clear of possible consequences. Cross refer to policies that you may have in place already, such as equal opportunities, discrimination, bullying and harassment, drug and alcohol abuse and of course your disciplinary and grievance procedures.

It is important to apply policies equally and fairly to each situation. It is also worth checking now that adequate sickness absence reporting processes are in place of which all employees are aware of and further, that sick pay policies are in line with the statutory sick pay entitlements. If your work event is arranged for a weekday, you need to plan for the possibility that you will get a few people calling in sick the next day (see below).

Respect and cater for all

It is important to ensure that you are mindful of people of different religions and cultures and that the event is non-discriminatory. As Christmas is a Christian celebration, not everyone may wish to participate in the festivities. Invite all employees but do not pressurize people into attending.

Further considerations should be given to the fact that not all employees drink alcohol eat meat and/or can attend a “late” do due to religious beliefs or family commitments.

The location of the party should be chosen to provide all relevant adjustments to avoid discriminating against staff with disabilities. Also, do not forget to invite staff who are away from the office, such as those on maternity or paternity leave.

Be clear about expectations regarding absences the next day

Consider warning staff beforehand that unauthorised absence the day after the Christmas party may result in disciplinary action. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that employees are more likely to phone in sick than fail to turn up. While employers may have a strong suspicion that over-indulgence the night before is the real reason for the absence, it is very important to clarify this before taking any action against the individual.

Full investigation – deal with complaints

You are responsible for the actions of your employees, particularly towards other employees. It is essential that all complaints received are dealt with speedily and fairly. You must therefore ensure that the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures is complied with and if you have your own internal disciplinary and grievance procedures please do follow them.  Failure to undertake an adequate grievance or investigatory and disciplinary process could result in a tribunal claim and have financial consequences.

Duty of Care

All employers owe their employees a duty of care and therefore it is prudent to adopt a sensible approach to the party. For example, consider limiting or capping the amount of free drinks and also provide non-alcoholic beverages. Pay for a disco to encourage people away from the bar and onto the dance floor.  Consider whether any of your employees might be under the legal age to drink alcohol and take steps to ensure that alcohol is not given or sold to them on your watch.  Finally try to ensure that employees get home safely by providing transport or giving out contact numbers for local taxi firms and encouraging staff to call them.

If you require any further information our Employment Team can offer legal advice and support. Please call us on 01603 751926 or email hr@hansells.co.uk.