Christmas Party Perils for Employers
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:
- Look at any potential employment law issues and then
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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?
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.
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.