HR and the Office Christmas Party
Avoid Litigation Post Office Christmas Party Libation
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or so sang Andy Williams – along with many others. Though I suppose that depends on how you view the crowded shops, over-priced everything, fairy lights that seem always to fail on Christmas Eve and receiving yet another pair of socks/gloves (delete as applicable) from Aunty Doris. Part and parcel (see what we did there?) of the seasonal offering is the office party and the Secret Santa. Harmless enough you might think. After all – such jollifications give folk a chance to relax and cement their relationships with their colleagues. Yet, as this article from the HR Zone on managing the office party points out: they often result in managers having to look the other way and develop selective hearing when employees, somewhat the worse for drink, decide to give them a few home truths.
Make Your Office Christmas Party a Ho Ho Ho – not a No No No
HR Issues to consider
You don’t want to be the office Scrooge (well you might, but that’s another thing entirely) and pour cold water onto the festivities. But there are HR issues to consider.
The first thing being this: Is a traditional, booze-filled evening what your employees want?
Research suggests otherwise. A People Managementarticle, how to survive Christmas without ending up in court, quotes the mental health charity MIND as saying that one in three employees would prefer a non-alcoholic Christmas activity. Further, around 28 percent stated they’d like to spend time with colleagues but wish it didn’t revolve around drinking.
Counting the cost
Before you rush to the off-licence to stock up on Christmas spirit you and your HR dept might want to consider the cost of the party itself. Both to the business and to your staff – in particular if you’re asking them to contribute. A study by Close Brothers Invoice Finance noted that a large number or private sector SMEs asked staff to make financial contributions to their own Christmas party. This is despite senior managers believing the festive shindig a morale booster.
Shine Workplace Wellbeing surveyed over 300 UK workers. They found that 74 percent would prioritise a £100 allocation to longer-term wellbeing commitments than a Christmas bash. Said Shine’s founder, Matthew Carlton: ‘Rather than relying on one major annual event to boost employee morale, businesses should think about how they could invest in ongoing initiatives that make employees feel appreciated and supported for a prolonged period.’
The morning after the night before
It’s not impossible – albeit unlikely – for festivities to get out of hand. Ergo, HR must safeguard against the business consequences of staff being too liberal with the libations.
When Willis Towers Watson researched this topic, they found 24 percent of 18-34-year olds confessed to going to work still drunk, following boozy nights out, in the 12-month period before to survey. As an employer than you need to decide in advance whether you will allow your staff to come to work late the day after the office party. Above all be clear on your position on lateness and absenteeism. Post-party days are a day like any other. So, if you’re not giving a hangover-dispensation your staff should be clear on that.
Other mitigating actions you might consider:
- Designating one or more members of managerial staff to supervise events and act as needed to diffuse any tricky situations.
- As an employer it’s your responsibility to get an inebriated staff member safely home after a work event.
- Be sure you provide lots of soft drinks and plenty of water for staff who don’t drink alcohol for personal or religious reasons.
It’s a fine line for the manager. You have to remind your staff that those failing to stick to company policy spoil the party for everyone without them labelling you an Ebeneezer.
Then there’s the social media HR Christmas party minefield. This is the season for extra awareness of the damage that social media poses to the workplace. There’s a big chance of inappropriate behaviour making its way online. From an employer’s perspective the risk is one of someone viewing information or photos posted on social media as discrimination or bullying. There’s potential for damage to the business’s reputation. So:
- Remind employees, well before the the day/night of the Christmas party, that normal company policies and procedures apply.
- Educate your staff on what you will accept – or otherwise.
- Make it clear to them what the consequences are of their failure to comply.
Do that and you limit the risk of finding yourself in a social media crisis.
Go-Legal HR hopes your office Christmas party goes with the right sort of bang. But if doesn’t we’re here to help. If, despite your best efforts, the morning after the night before brings you a Christmas present you could do without get in touch.