Christmas Party Perils for Employers

Champagne glasses on a tray - Christmas Party Perils for Employers

Christmas Party Perils for Employers

Canape

Back in the day, Andy Williams sang of it being the most wonderful time of the year. This of course rather depends on your perspective. You might well be feeling as festive as your staff. Yet, as an employer, there are Christmas party perils for you to consider. During this festive season, take some time to:

  1. Look at any potential employment law issues and then
  2. Go over any company polices to check they do what they need to – and refresh them if needed. Visit our services page to see how we can help you with legal compliance.

Christmas Party Perils to consider

  1. The office party location

Whatever the location of the office Christmas party, you must tell your staff that the venue is an extension of the workplace. Ergo, they are representing your business and that you expect them to act accordingly.

Why does this matter? Because you the employer can, by proxy, be liable for incidents at work-related festivities. It might sound like scaremongering, but if you are not careful, a variety of claims (employment related or otherwise), could herald your new year.

So, your staff should be in no doubt what your boundaries are. This is where you need crystal clear company policies communicated to everyone. Go-Legal HR will help you make sure that yours are exactly that.

You could even think about issuing a statement to all your staff in advance of work-related jollifications to act as a gentle reminder.

  1. Your duty of care

As an employer, you must think about your duty of care to your employees. It’s your job to make sure your revellers get home in one piece after the office Christmas party. 

Our advice to you is to advise your staff before the event about not drinking and driving. Suggest to them that they consider hiring a coach or a minibus in which to get home. There will of course, always be an element of ‘you can take a horse to water’. But if there is an incident, you as the employer are beholden to demonstrate what precautions you took.

Champagne glasses on a tray - Christmas Party Perils for Employers

Other HR Issues to consider

Assuming you don’t want to be the office Scrooge and pour cold water onto the festivities, there are several other HR issues for you to worry about.

The first thing being this: Is a traditional, booze-filled evening what your employees want?

Christmas Party Perils for Employers -  bottles of Peroni

 Research suggests otherwise. A People Management article, how to survive Christmas without ending up in court, quotes the mental health charity MIND. They said 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 would prefer it not to 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.

Offer an alternative

Might your staff prefer something different? How about a financial commitment to longer-term wellbeing commitments rather than a one-night boozy bash? Instead of relying on one major annual event to boost your staff’s morale, why not think about investing in some ongoing initiatives? Something to make your staff feel appreciated and supported throughout the year.

The morning after the night before

It’s not impossible for festivities to get out of hand. Ergo, your HR policies must safeguard against the business consequences of staff being too liberal with the libations.

 Decide in advance too whether you’ll 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 make your staff 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 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.

Balancing act

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. And that without them labelling you an Ebeneezer.

Not forgetting the social media minefield. There’s a big chance of inappropriate behaviour making its way online. From your perspective the risk is one of someone viewing information or photos posted on social media as discrimination or bullying. Big potential there for damage to your business’ reputation.

Remind employees, well in advance that normal company policies and procedures apply. Tell them what you will and will not accept. Make clear the consequences are of 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 is the right sort of cracker.

 But if it, isn’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. 


On related topics see also: 

  1. HR and the Office Christmas Party
  2. Why celebrating festivals in the workplace is good for business

Too Hot to Work in the Office?

Too hot to work in the office - thermomenter

Too Hot to Work in the Office?

Unlike in 2018, when the sun came out the beginning of May and stayed out for three glorious months, the summer of 2019 has been a bit of a slow starter. It took until well into June to get any weather that might have created a situation of it being too hot to work in the office.

At this point it’s worth noting though that the Met Office’s meteorological definition of summer isn’t the traditional one. If we’re going to be proper about it, summer begins (in the northern hemisphere) on the summer solstice. Depending on the shift of the calendar the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice takes place between the 20th and 22nd June.  So as grotty as early June was, summer began pretty much bang on time.

Anyway – to the point. There’s a heatwave going on, and your offices don’t have air conditioning and what you want to know is:

  • Can your staff leave work if it’s too hot?
  • Is there a maximum workplace temperature?

The gospel according to the Gov.UK website states that: ‘During working hours the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable.’ But there’s no law decreeing maximum or minimum working temperatures. The best there is, is guidance on the minimum temperature when employees are engaged in physical labour.

All the above said, the TUC have stated a belief that employers should set a maximum temperature of 30c, with a top note of 27c for those doing strenuous work.

Too hot to work in the office - thermomenter

Despite the absence of a legal high temperature, it goes without saying that, as an employer, you must abide by health and safety at work a law and do all you can to provide your staff with:

  • A temperature maintained at a comfortable and reasonable level.**
  • Clean, fresh air

**Reasonable being defined by the HSE as: dependent on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air-conditioned office, etc).

In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the 1999 Management of Health and Safey at Work Regulations call on you the employer, to make appropriate assessments of their employee’s health and safety risks. Then take necessary and practicable actions.

And of course, the workplace temperature is a potential hazard.

Six Steps to a Safe Hot Weather Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive spells out six factorsthat you the employer must consider in assessing if your workplace is safe. They are:

  1. Air temperature
  2. Radiant temperature
  3. Air velocity
  4. Humidity
  5. What clothing your staff wear
  6. The average age at which they work.

To help you, they have a thermal comfort checklist. They recommend that you get your employees to fill it out so you can determine if they’re experiencing thermal discomfort.

Desk fan

The right air conditioning

A word about air conditioning. Should you work in offices with air conditioning, and should you be in a position to influence its settings. And should you have female staff members, you might want to take note of this article in The Metro from a couple of years back.

Everyday sexism is alive and well in the temperature at which most air conditioning is set. A study carried out by two Dutch scientists at Maastricht University, found that the thermostats in most offices are based on the resting metabolic rate of a 40-year-old-man. This as per standard air con guidelines that date back to the 1960s. All of which fails to consider that women tend to be smaller and to naturally have more body fat – it’s to do with biology. Ergo they have slower metabolic rates. So, while your male employees are nice and comfortable thank you, your female staff members could well be turning blue.

So, if you are in a position to influence it – do it.

If you’re at all unsure of your obligations in keeping your staff as comfortable as possible in hot weather, or you’d like help with any of it then speak to Go-Legal and we’ll advise. No sweat!!

 

 

Everything you ever wanted to know about GDPR – but were afraid to ask

GDPR

20th February 2018

Everything you ever wanted to know about GDPR – but were afraid to ask

Unless, in recent weeks, you’ve been in entrenched in deepest, darkest jungle out of the reach of Wi-Fi you can’t fail to have heard about GDPR. So before we go any further let’s be clear on what GDPR is and try and give you some info on what you need to know about GDPR.

The General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation that the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union (EU) and the European Commission will use to strengthen and unite data protection for all EU individuals. Good news for our individual privacy. But not so fab for the small and micro-business owner. Because make no mistake: doing nothing is NOT an option. Whether you have a big turnover or you make a few hundred pounds a month from your spare bedroom – it makes no difference. These new regulations apply to you. By the 25th of May 2018 you have to be GDPR compliant. So put it in your diary!

 What we have now: the Data Protection Act (DPA)

Under the Data Protection Act of 1998 you are considered compliant with regulations unless you’re found not to be. A bit like how the UK legal system assumes you innocent until proven guilty. With GDPR though you have to be overtly seen to be compliant. There’s no room even for reasonable doubt.

Why are the regulations changing?

Your GDPR questions answered

It’s a good question.

Our data is being used in ways that the old DPA couldn’t foresee: social media being a prime example. As a result, the EU has worked for four years now to bring data protection legislation into line with these modern ways of using said data. At the moment, the UK relies on the 1998 Data Protection Act – and that came into being on the heels of a 1995 EU data protection directive.  The new legislation supersedes that.

What will the new legislation do?

In a nutshell:

  • It has the power to impose tougher fines for breaches and non-compliance.
  • It gives individuals more say over what companies – of all sizes – can use their data for. It also brings in a level of standardisation to data protection rules throughout the EU.

When will GDPR come into force?

25th May 2018 marks GDPR day. From that day forth the legislation will apply in all EU member states. GDPR is a regulation not a directive. This means that the UK doesn’t have to draw up new legislation – rather it will apply automatically.

GDPR for the small business

Having got to grips with what GDPR is and the fact that no one is exempt from it, the next two most important things to remember are:

  1. GDPR applies to ANY business that is in the business of processing the personal data of EU citizens. This means it also apply to data you have of companies that are based outside the EU.
  2. Brexit changes nothing. The UK government has confirmed that current Brexit negotiations will not affect the GDPR start date. Nor its immediate running. Furthermore, it’s already confirmed that, post-Brexit, either the UK’s own law, or a newly proposed data protection act, will be a direct mirror of GDPR. So don’t go pinning your hopes on that as a way to avoid taking action.

UK Small Business GDPR checklist

This article from Simply Business, What is GPDR for small business, has stacks of information – including a GDPR checklist for UK small businesses. There’s more detail in the article but here are the main points in summary:

  1. Know your data: where it is, why you have it in the first place and how long you normally keep it for
  2. Identify whether you’re relying on consent to process personal data
  3. Look hard at your security measures and policies – the chances are they will need updating.
  4. Prepare to meet subject access requests within a one-month timeframe
  5. Train your employees, and report a serious breach within 72 hours
  6. Conduct due-diligence on your supply chain.
  7. Create fair processing notices
  8. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). 

I’ll leave you with this thought:

The chances are that your inbox has by now been flooded with training organisations offering GDPR courses. I’m reminded here of the old saying ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’. If you think doing such a course will be helpful to you that’s fine. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it will make you GDPR compliant. It won’t.

If you feel in need of any level of advice and support with GDPR Go-Legal HR is here to help. Contact me via the web form here: http://www.go-legal-hr.com/contact/ Or call me on 07801 709945. If you get my answer phone leave me a message – I promise I’ll get right back to you.