An employer’s guide to Christmas office parties

Christmas can throw up a number of issues for employers. With Christmas parties, issues surrounding different religions, holiday requests and Christmas bonuses to deal with, organisations will need to make sure they are ready for the holiday season.

Office parties are a particularly big issue for HR professionals, with many having to decide how to ensure employees behave appropriately and how to deal with worse-for-wear workers who turn up late the morning after the big event.

Keep up-to-date with the latest news and advice on issues facing employers during the festive period with our employer’s guide to Christmas Office Parties…

Christmas Parties

Company social events may not feel like ‘work’ but they are considered to be an extension of the workplace.
This means that the organisation has a duty of care to their employees that extends beyond the usual ‘nine to five’ and includes the Christmas office party itself and the aftermath – the drunken punch up, the impromptu negative feedback, the gropey co-worker, the drunk snogs, the offensive jokes and the sick mess that your HR team could be left with!

The organisation is deemed responsible for their employee’s actions and the consequences of those actions at work-related social events because they are judged to have been carried out in the course of employment.

This holds the employer accountable for behaviours such as:

  • discrimination
  • harassment, sexual harassment and third party harassment
  • bullying
  • violence / physical assaults
  • drunken behaviour
  • unauthorised images posted to social media

How to avoid HR problems at a Christmas Party

  • Outline appropriate behaviour in your company policies. It’s standard procedure to have a staff handbook or collection of policies, which should be made avaialble to every employee when they join the company. This gives you the perfect opportunity to detail your code of conduct, which can cover events such as team-building activities or parties. BHR will be able to help you prepare these documents if you haven’t them already.
  • Reinforce expectations before the event. Before the Christmas party, it may be worthwhile to send out an email to all staff members, highlighting the sort of behaviour that would be regarded as unacceptable. This timely reminder might be all it takes to avoid serious problems on the night.
  • Be alert on the night. Tempting though it is to let your hair down with your staff, it’s a wise idea to stay relatively sober and keep an eye out for trouble. Sometimes, a quiet word in an employee’s ear is enough to keep things in check.

What if there is an issue?

If a situation does arise on the night, it’s important to follow the procedure outlined in your policies. Depending on the nature of the problem, you may need to:

  • Call the employee in for an informal chat, to discuss their behaviour.
  • Arrange for some workplace mediation to take place – to resolve conflicts before they become a major problem
  • Start a more serious disciplinary procedure (if required).

Enjoying your Christmas Office Party – without an HR headache attached

If you’d like to prime your business for a hassle-free Christmas party (and for a more harmonious working environment all year round), talk to BHR. I am a qualified HR specialist in the South-east, and I can assist with every aspect of your HR needs. To learn more, call me on 0800 861 1307 today.

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