‘Tis the season to be jolly and careful!

19 December, 2014
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

It’s that time of year again…when employers are warned that they may be liable for the actions of their staff at Christmas parties (that’s right, even when the event is away from the office and outside working hours). At the risk of sounding like complete party-poopers, we set out below a short ‘survival guide’ for employers during the festive season.

When planning the Christmas party, employers should consider making the event as inclusive as possible by:

  • Providing plenty of non-alcoholic drinks for those who do not drink alcohol for religious or personal reasons as well as providing alternatives for people who don’t eat certain foods.
  • Inviting those employees who are on sick leave or family related leave. If husbands and wives are invited to the event, make sure you also invite same-sex partners to avoid claims of sexual orientation discrimination.
  • Selecting a venue which is accessible to all employees and which is not likely to offend employees.
  • Selecting entertainment that is not going to be viewed as offensive by employees.

Employers should also consider:

  • The amount of alcohol that will be available at the event. Most unwanted incidents will be fuelled by alcohol.
  • Supplying plenty of food at the event to minimise the risk of staff getting too drunk.
  • Having a more senior person in ‘charge’ of the event to ensure that things do not get too out of hand.
  • Reminding staff that they remain bound by workplace policies whilst at the Christmas party. Many employers send their staff a short email at the start of the festive season setting out the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and reminding them about the consequences of inappropriate behaviour.
  • Putting in place a social media policy (if one is not already in place) and reminding your staff that this applies to the Christmas party too. The consequences of any compromising pictures making their way onto social media could be damaging to your business.
  • Avoiding discussions about career prospects or remuneration with staff at the event – as these statements can be misinterpreted.
  • The next day. Be clear before the event whether you are going to allow staff to come in late the next day. If not, remind them that if they are not at work the next day, their absence will be treated as unauthorised absence under the disciplinary procedure.

If an issue does arise on the night, it is usually best to send employees home and deal with it the next day, once the effect of any alcohol has worn off. You should deal with any inappropriate behaviour under the disciplinary or grievance procedures in the usual way.

Most importantly, don’t forget that a Christmas party is a great way of rewarding staff, boosting morale and building team spirit. So enjoy!