HR and the Office Christmas Party

HR and the office Christmas party

December 2018

HR and the Office Christmas Party

Avoid Litigation Post Office Christmas Party Libation

HR and the Office Christmas Party

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.

An alternative

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.

paper streamers

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. 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace

October 2018 saw World Mental Health Day.  That recent event presents an opportune time to look at the implications of mental health and the workplace. Because if you’re an employer, the mental health of your staff is part of your responsibility.

Taking care of your staff

Developments in Mental Health awareness are placing the onus on employers to create an atmosphere in which your staff can feel comfortable in approaching you about their mental health concerns. The mental health charity, MIND carried out research demonstrating that, in many workplaces, employees are fearful of expressing their problems.  This is bad for them and costly for you in all manner of ways as they point out on their website:

  • When asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress, over 21 percent of respondents – that’s one in five – stated they’d taken time off sick to avoid going to work.


  • Asked how they’d been affected by workplace stress. 14 per cent admitted to resigning and a further 42 per cent stated they had resigned over workplace stress.


  • 30 per cent of staff that MIND spoke to disagreed with the statement ‘‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’ and – on a positive note –


  • A whopping 56 per cent of employers stated they wanted to do more to improve staff wellbeing but worried they lacked the right guidance and training.

If you are an Employer, the MIND website has lots of great free resources to help you here.

Mental health scrabble tiles

The Law and Mental Health in the Workplace

Although the term ‘mental health’ is not, in itself, a legal definition, it’s clear that employers face a legal obligation to act to get a handle on workplace mental health and meet the legal definition of disability.

But first, what do we mean when we speak of ‘Mental Health’?

Personnel Today, in their article on the law and workplace mental health, defines it as: ‘a continuum that includes emotional well-being, mental health conditions and mental illnesses.’ As they state, mental health fluctuates in the same way as mental health. Though of course, we all have a different experience of mental health.

Personnel Today share several headline statistics on workplace mental health. For example:

  1. One in six workers suffer from anxiety, depression and unmanageable stress each year.
  2. 74% of people with a mental health problem for more than a year are out of work.
  3. 55% of those with depression or anxiety for more than a year are out of work. And – of great concern …
  4. … 49% of workers spoken to stated that they’d be uncomfortable disclosing a mental health issue at their workplace.

Difficult reading?? Even more difficult is the realisation that, in economic terms these statistics translate to 2015 seeing 18 million absence days from mental health conditions, and workplace mental ill-health cost.

The Employer’s Role

The Health and Safety Executive website has information for employers concerning stress and mental health in the workplace – much of which concerns itself with:

The Stevenson Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review

As the HSE website states: In 2017, the government commissioned Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) to independently review the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace.  What the ‘Thriving at Work’ report does is to set out a framework of core standards/action that it recommends employers of all sizes, put into place.

The review designed these standards to help employers improve the mental health of their workplace and help individuals with mental health conditions to thrive – not only survive.

If you act on work-related stress, whether it be via the HSE standards or a similar approach, you’ll meet parts of the core standards framework and:

  • Form part of a mental health at work plan
  • Raise awareness, reduce stigma and promote communications
  • Provide a means to monitor actions and outcomes.

The Management Standards

You’ll find full details of the HSE’s management standards here.  But in brief they are:

  • Demands– Including issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control– how much say the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support– Including encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships– Including promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role– whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change– how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

So there you have it – an overview of the employer’s role in regard to workplace mental health.

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