Avoiding a real life nightmare before Christmas…

17 November, 2016
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

It’s that time of year again, the festive period is fast approared santa hatching and Christmas parties are right around the corner. Whilst work events are undeniably a great opportunity to improve staff morale, employers must also be aware that they can turn into a real life nightmare before Christmas.

Here are 3 factors to consider when arranging your work Christmas Party:

Attendees

It is important to open the Christmas Party to all employees, regardless of age, gender, religion, disability. Also, do not forget to invite any employees on family friendly leave!

You should try to pick events that everyone can enjoy and which won’t appeal to only a certain demographic of the workforce.

To avoid questions of employment status it is advisable that self-employed individuals engaged by an employer are not invited to the Christmas Party. The position regarding agency workers is not so clear cut – the general consensus is that the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 do not give an agency worker the right to attend a Christmas Party (although this could be fact sensitive), and that doing so could lead to questions of employment status; on the other hand, the bigger risk to a business could be the damage to workforce morale caused by not inviting an agency worker.

Timing and Location

The timing and location of your Christmas Party are important considerations which may be driven by the make-up of your workforce. For example, if it is held outside of office hours be mindful employees may have family commitments preventing them from attending. Therefore, a lunch time event may be more suitable.

The venue of the party should be accessible to all employees and it is advisable to carry out a risk assessment. Further, the venue should be inspected to ensure that employees can get home safely and provision should be made to ensure that employees will not be tempted to drive home after drinking (e.g. by hiring coaches or providing the telephone number of local cab companies).

Behaviour

A Christmas party is a work-related activity, even though it is held outside normal work hours and off-site, and employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees (such as harassment, discrimination or assault etc.). Ideally you would have a policy setting out what is expected from your employees at work-related social events, in any event it is advisable to make clear to your employees the acceptable standards of behaviour.

Lastly, employers should avoid the topic of promotions and pay rises with employees – a Christmas Party is not the forum for such conversations. Employees will likely remember such conversations the following morning (even if they remember little else!), putting employers in a difficult position.