Office parties – a word of ‘festive’ warning!

For HR departments and employment lawyers alike, it is as much a Christmas tradition as turkey and mince pies. Every December we bring out articles on the perils of holding an office Christmas party, so as not to disappoint here are this year’s top tips.
Venue
It’s worth thinking carefully about the venue for your Christmas party. Is it accessible to all? including those with a disability? Can people get home easily? Choosing a venue that might encourage people to ‘drink and drive’ is clearly not advisable. So consider whether you have good public transport links or ready access to taxis.
Invitation list
When compiling the invitations be as inclusive as possible, no one should feel left out. Remember to make an effort to invite those who are currently away from work, whether because of maternity leave, sickness or any other reason. If employees are encouraged to invite their partners along, allow for the reality of unmarried couples and same-sex relationships.
Party planning
Think how you can make the party appealing to all. Organising an event based solely around the consumption of large quantities of alcohol will no doubt please some of your employees, but it could well be a turn-off for others. In particular, be sensitive to the religious and other beliefs of your employees; make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic drink options and any food on the menu contains a vegetarian option.

Also be mindful of any guest speakers or entertainers you choose to use. There is a very well-known Employment Tribunal case circa 1996 that arose out of the booking of the ‘stand-up comedian’ Bernard Manning. You can probably guess what went wrong there!

Discussion topics
When a lot of alcohol has been consumed, people become less inhibited and more likely to say (or do) precisely what is on their mind. As a result, the risk of discrimination and harassment claims rears its ugly head. So make sure people understand that this is a work event and a level of professionalism is still required. Oh, and if you’re the boss, remember that alcohol and conversions about pay rises don’t mix!
The morning after
Make sure people understand whether they are required to be in work the day after the Christmas party. If they phone in sick, carefully consider whether it is genuine sickness or the result of over-indulgence. Then consider whether disciplinary action is required.
Policy revision?
You don’t need a policy specifically to cover your Christmas party, but it is worth considering whether your existing policies on conduct, harassment etc. are clear about what is expected of employees in this context. Take a look at HR Revolution’s Employee Handbook, it helps set out core Company expectations in terms of general conduct and includes all of your integral UK policies and employment legislation.
Lastly; enjoy, let your hair down and have fun!
Finally, and before we begin to sound too much like the equivalent of ‘Scrooge’, the Christmas party is a chance to come together, celebrate a successful year and thank your colleagues/employees for their efforts. It is also an opportunity to have fun. So having taken some sensible precautions, relax, unwind and enjoy yourself. You deserve it!
If you need any help or advice with any issues discussed above or updating any office policies all found in our comprehensive Employee handbook, why not get in touch HR Revolution and make sure your office Christmas passes without incident.

Give us a call +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk or visit www.hrrevolution.co.uk  where our expert CIPD HR professionals are waiting to help you with any questions you may have.

HR Revolution; supporting you, your employees AND your business.

 

Keep your employees focused during the festive period…

Although Christmas is technically celebrated over three consecutive days, Christmas obsessed, festive loving individuals will always go out of their way to make Christmas a month long celebration. Now I am no Scrooge, but the business world doesn’t stop just because copious amounts of fairy lights go up and Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ gets stuck on repeat. For this reason it is good to strive for a balance that reflects ‘being all for the Christmas celebrations’ whilst keeping your businesses productivity levels high.

How to integrate Christmas into your business without losing sight of ‘getting the job done’.

1. Start a Christmas committee; anyone who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Christmas can get involved. The idea is to have an initial meeting surrounding the planning of Christmas activities and then allocate time throughout December to carry them out. When you allocate time to Christmas andthe celebrations from ‘worktime’ it will give those who love Christmas something to look forward to, making them less inclined to lose focus at the times where they shouldn’t. This could be secret Santa, decorating the office, planning the office Christmas party, organising a Christmas bake off/morning tea or encouraging ridiculous dress up themes.

2. Have a Christmas or end of year party away from the office and after hours; when you put on a paid for function, you will generally find that people are happy to attend in their personal time and it also means you’re not taking your employees away from their work. Parties during work hours are fine too, however be prepared for the best part of the day to be unproductive.

3. Set the pace; if your business is generally quiet this time of year, create proactive things for your teams to do/put in place to ensure they continue to keep busy (while you continue to pay them). This will keep the team focused on getting organised for the New Year which is integral if they are not dealing with their typical busy work load. These things could be anything from a spring clean, to getting your team to write their ‘to do list’s/plans’ for the following year. You could also use this time for training and development, to ensure all that training that you’ve been meaning to do actually gets done!

4. Set the expectations AND the right tone; try to avoid the condescending “keep focused emails” as they tend to make your team feel like you have no confidence in their commitment. Instead send THANK YOU emails! Say how much you appreciate their hard work this year and that would you love their help in making December productive, so you can finish the year with a bang! Reminding your team how much you value their dedication and commitment is a great way to ensure it continues throughout December.

5. Manage the festive spoilers; if someone is persistently late into work /coming back from a break or arriving at work hung-over or drunk, these behaviours need to be address separately and privately. No matter how well-meaning a group message might be, this is highly likely to disengage those who are doing the right thing. On the other hand, if it is not addressed, it can bring down the office productivity levels. Don’t be tempted to let these issues slide just because it’s Christmas… If you need to have these conversations, then you need to have them… promptly!

It is probably a good time to check your employee handbook to ensure you have relevant time keeping, alcohol and other related behavioural policies in place. Visit HR Revolution’s one stop document shop for all your policies and procedures www.hrrevolutionshop.co.uk

Outsourced HRHR Documents | Talent Solutions

HR Revolution HR Documents

Visit HR Revolution’s document shop, for all your HR document needs 

An HR nightmare at the Christmas party

Today is the 1st December and the office party season is now well underway.  It’s a time for most employees to unwind, let their hair down and have a few drinks after working hard all year. While most parties pass without incident, people can sometimes let their hair down a little bit too much and indulge in actions and behaviours which cause distress to others and serious headaches for HR.

When you bring together an office full of people who only really know each other in a work capacity and give them loads of alcohol, the results can be unpredictable, but what should you do if one of your employees crosses the line at the office Christmas party?  We’ve put some possible scenarios together and how they should be handled by HR.

SCENARIO 1: Inappropriate advances

A drunk employee repeatedly tells a colleague how gorgeous they think they are and that they’d love to get to know them better. He/she does not report this, but it makes them feel very uncomfortable and they tell a colleague in confidence.

It seems like the employee doesn’t wish to make a scene at the party but is clearly uncomfortable with what has happened – this is highlighted by their need to express their concerns to another colleague. As a result, this should not be discussed during the party so as to no make them feel uncomfortable.  It is always better to wait until everyone is sober before broaching any kind of issue.

The next possible working day an informal meeting should be scheduled to find out what happened and whether it was a regular occurrence.  If, after exploring this, it was found it was a one-off event then I would ask if he/she wishes to take things further, in which case we would have to follow procedure for inappropriate behaviour towards a colleague, and if not, it would just be noted down on file.

Separate enquiries should be followed up with the employee concerned, asking them their recollection of the event and whether he/she feels that the approach they took was entirely appropriate. It would be best to remind them that relationships at work are not encouraged by the company and advise that there would be no further follow up, unless further complaints were received.

SCENARIO 2: Loose lips

A drunk employee lets slip that the boss is planning to make a number of redundancies in the coming weeks. This information is highly confidential but now a handful of people know.

I’m making the assumption here that it would be a Senior Manager releasing this kind of information, which would make the breach of confidentiality more extreme. I wouldn’t act on this information at the party but on the next possible working day it would be necessary to meet with the employee and establish what had happened a the party.

It may be necessary to conduct a full investigation with the individual to ascertain what was said and the reason this might be. It would be wise to speak with those employees that had been told about the redundancies and note their account of the events. At this point we would also ask how far the information had spread and look to gain general reactions. Unfortunately, such information could have a serious impact on employee morale and gossip often circulates quickly, so it is extremely important that it is dealt with quickly and with discretion.

If it can be proven that the employee let slip this information, then we would have to follow the disciplinary process with them, as they have breached their trust by divulging this information. The company itself should look into sending a company-wide email to alleviate any fears and ensure we communicate effectively with staff members. It may also be necessary to follow up on this email to ensure everyone understands and is on the same page.

SCENARIO 3: The fight

As the drink flows two party goers start to have a disagreement. Temperatures boil over and the two start pushing each other and squaring up. Blows are exchanged by both, before colleagues break it up.

Make sure the fight is broken up and both parties are put in separate taxis and sent home.

The next possible working day invite both employees to a disciplinary hearing, where they will receive a warning for bringing the company into disrepute and failing their roles as ambassadors of the company.

Unfortunately, when everyone has had a lot to drink, emotions run high and unresolved issues can turn into full-blown arguments.

Although employees are outside of work hours, they are still representing the company and should behave accordingly. As a result, it’s important to have procedures in place to deal with any conflict that may arise eg. a no tolerance policy towards violence within the workplace, which extends to any organised work event, and the procedure is exactly the same as the one that would arise should employees get in a fight in the office.

SCENARIO 4: Sex in the stationary cupboard

An employee is heading into the stationary cupboard to collect another case of red wine that has been stored there when they discover two colleagues having sex. Embarrassed, they both straighten their clothes and re-join the party. The person who discovered them goes back into the party and tells some colleagues about the hilarious discovery.

In this case, I would not address them at the party, although I may try to defuse the jokes that could arise from the person who discovered them telling other people, as this could result in bullying.

I would meet with both parties separately on the following work day to establish what had gone on and hold an investigation. We don’t encourage relationships within the workplace and it is certainly not appropriate to have sex at a work party. However, it would be necessary to understand exactly what happened and not just listen to gossip. Both parties should be dealt with in exactly the same manner and the person who discovered them in the cupboard would need to be interviewed to establish the facts.

I would also ask the person who discovered them whether they thought it appropriate to tell their colleagues and have a joke about the couple, as this could lead to further issues down the line.

If you want to discuss any of the issues above or need a bit of guidance, please do get in touch with HR Revolution, we’d be happy to help (0) 203 5385311 – www.hrrevolution.co.uk www.hrrevolutionshop.co.uk

Outsourced HRHR Documents | Talent Solutions

HR Revolution HR Documents

Visit HR Revolution’s document shop, for all your HR document needs 

A version of this article first appeared on breatheHR

 

Your Christmas HR questions answered…

Can you believe that two weeks today will be the 1st of December.  Most people think of the Christmas period as a time to relax and enjoy the festivities and I’m sure the office party/lunch/dinner details will dominate office conversation.  But not for business owners and managers I fear, the Christmas period can come with a whole host of issues, so why not this year, plan ahead a little and keep the period problem free.

Read the following Q&As to get the important information you need to know for your business.

Do I have to organise a Christmas party or function for my employees?

There is no legal requirement for you to organise anything for your employees.  There are some wider issues to consider here though. Just because you’re not obliged to do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t. After all it is the season to be jolly and organising a get-together could be a great way to thank everyone for their contribution and show them that you really appreciate all that they do for the business.

Cost is always a key factor in thinking about Christmas parties, but you don’t always have to spend a fortune, keep a budget in mind and have a look at all options, there are plenty around.

Everyone wants to take time off, how can I manage this?

Getting this right all comes down to the finer details of your employment contracts. You must take the time to assess the precise terms and conditions that you’ve laid out regarding how holiday can be taken. Generally speaking, employees should know how to request time off, and how decisions will be made by the management team.

If you have certain busy periods, you may decide that you’ll only accept requests for time off between certain dates in exceptional circumstances. If you had a employee who was getting married, for example, then you may reconsider your stance.

Not all of my staff are Christian, what are the implications here?

Having a diverse workforce has a multitude of benefits. You do need to make sure though that you’re conscious of differing beliefs, and the issues that could be at play. Remember that Christmas is a national holiday in the UK, and it’s recognised among many religious groups (including the non-religious) as having a special status. If you have many employees from different religions, it may be worthwhile considering making arrangements to recognise other holidays that your employees may wish to celebrate.

This can seem like a minefield, but it’s very possible to devise an approach that will suit all needs. You may need some help though when it comes to understanding the relevance and important of various different holidays. As such, you might decide to hold a consultation exercise with your employees. Getting everyone involved in decisions that will have an impact on them will ensure that they’re accepted.

Should I give my employees a present?

I’m sure there is no employee in the world that would not gratefully a Christmas present! However there are a few things to consider.

First of all, make sure that everyone receives their gift. This includes anyone who may be away on maternity, paternity, or sick leave.  Also, think carefully about the nature of the gift, a bottle of wine may seem like a good idea, though not so much if you have members of staff who abstain from alcohol. Use your common sense, and get a professional’s opinion if you’re struggling with ideas.

If you need any help with updating your HR policies and procedures, get in touch with HR Revolution and will be happy to advise you or visit our HR document website www.hrrevolutionshop.co.uk, where you can download our ready to use templates and documents.

It’s worth taking a bit of time to do some planning, then you and your employees can have a very merry Christmas indeed.

Outsourced HRHR Documents | Talent Solutions

HR Revolution HR Documents

Visit HR Revolution’s document shop, for all your HR document needs 

 

December Survival Guide

Well I don’t know about you, but my year just seems to have flown by! I woke up yesterday and had a very harsh reality check when my daughter excitedly threw an advent calendar at me…. Hang on, it surely isn’t December already!! A slight panic rose in my stomach thinking off all the things I have to do in just three short weeks. I hope I’m not the only one that is experiencing the same feeling that seems to put in me in a very odd and slightly snappy mood when really I should be full of festive spririt, skipping around singing falalalala’s in my head!

So how about the rest of the world? Are you stressed, working every hour, trying to do a million and one things at once at work and at home? Well I have had a day to think about the best way to deal with this December’s impending chaos and have a few tips to share with you to ensure you get the balance and can enjoy the festive season! First thing on the list; stay calm!

Control – If a difficult situation arises don’t lash out, be calm and take lots of deep breathes take a moment and think about your response, think it through, you will be less likely to say or act in manor you will regret! Be it with a work colleague or a queue of stressful shoppers waiting to purchase the last of their Christmas gifts!

Communicate – We are all guilty of communicating via email, with colleagues or Managers even if they sit across the desk from you! Emails can be misinterpreted. Arrange a meeting it doesn’t have to be a lengthy one, or pick up the phone. Talk to each other and you will not be misunderstood! This carries through with home life too, remember it’s good to talk!

Stay Calm – If someone upsets you at work, try and separate the person from their actions. You cannot stop stressful situations happening, but you can change your attitude towards them.  Think of your success and strengths and this will boost your self-esteem!

Stay Well – Take time to look after you, you cannot function through illness of tiredness make sure you eat well. We all over look our well being as we have such busy lives, but to function at our best and enjoy Christmas festivities we need to follow the few simple rules!

Enjoy all the festivities and for a free consultation contact us @HRREV

Christmas do’s and do not’s

It’s that time again, that time of the year that you either love or hate, Its Christmas time! But as this special time of year approaches, so do certain challenges. Here are just a few Christmas do’s and do not’s:

Christmas and that ‘Christmas bonus’

Having a discretionary bonus scheme can be a practical way for a small business to incentivise employees, which are typically considered at the end of the year. Discretionary bonus schemes will often say that a bonus is payable ‘entirely at the employer’s discretion’. In practice, however, labelling a bonus scheme as ‘discretionary’ will not prevent it from requiring some form of clarification. Clear drafting of contracts of employment or a policy relating to the bonus scheme is essential. Employers should also ensure that discretionary schemes are operated fairly and consistently to avoid any potential discrimination claims arising.

Christmas and ‘those’ decorations

I realise there are two sides to the Christmas decorations debate, the side of the scrooge and the side of home owners that try to rival Blackpool with 1001 Christmas lights. To decorate or not to decorate that is the question! What harm can a few Christmas decorations do? They make the office feel more colourful, more fun and invoke that special feeling that only Christmas can bring. After all is Christmas not the time for bringing joy to all man?

Christmas and Health and Safety

Decorations are a bit of fun and uplift even the dullest of offices, but can baubles and tinsel be a health and safety hazard waiting to happen? Christmas lights with plugs need to be PAT tested so you don’t end up with a burnt Christmas tree or more seriously burning down the office! I have heard reports that some employers have actually banned decorations in the office entirely. Fears that staff might hurt themselves while putting up holly or tinsel, especially the potential fire hazard created by the extra paper, plastic and pine may explain the bah-humbug caution. But are these fears actually rooted in reality or is this Scrooge at work again? Has Health and Safety gone a bit OTT?

Apparently “The number of visits to A&E departments owing to slips and trips over the Christmas period is around 80,000, which is not significantly greater than at any other time of the year,” says Roger Bibbings, the occupational safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, so perhaps that shows that the H&S risks of decorating the office are minimal. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that your office H&S risk assessment is up to date!

Christmas Parties and being ‘that guy’

Christmas inevitably means a seasonal work party. The tradition of the “Christmas party” is typically a chance for the Employer to thank all their hard working employees for their efforts during the year and give them a good ‘knees up’. It’s also a great way of building internal team relationships. But beware, don’t be that guy that spills drinks over the ladies dresses, that confesses his undying love for the MD’s PA, that kisses a co-worker or that passes out on the bosses lap. Other people may not have had as much to drink as you and they WILL remember the next day and the day after….

After a bit of merriment, some people can get over zealous and distasteful jokes, remarks and colourful language can often be a problem. Beware of jokes, as if they single out one specific characteristic – for example women, this may lead to a potential discriminatory claim. Sexual harassment claims are one of the biggest risks employers can encounter when the alcohol is flowing. What one person may see as harmless flirting; another could view as unwanted sexual attention. Employers can be held accountable to the behaviour of their employees as tribunals view your office party as an extension of your normal work environment. If you are concerned about your employee’s potential merriment at the Christmas party here are a few ideas to think about. Before the party you should send out a clear statement about acceptable behaviour and the consequences of inappropriate actions. Remind everyone that it is a work event and that they are still expected to act in a professional manner and in line with the employee policies and that they are representing the company.

Christmas Parties and employees getting home

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and as it is a work party you need consider how employees will be getting home. If a member of staff has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party and plans to drive home, the employer should take responsibility as part of this duty of care. Consider ending the party before public transport stops running; or provide the phone numbers for local cab companies and encourage staff to use them or you could consider laying on transport for them.

Christmas parties and the venue

Generally it is advisable not to hold the Christmas party on your office premises and here is why; body part photocopying (fun at the time, but not after a trip to A&E and definitely not fun for the photocopier machine), damage to company property resulting from desk and chair dancing and the subsequent personal injury claims or theft of company property.

Christmas and the sickies

Sickness can be an issue following any work event where employees are expected to turn up to work the next

day. A way of avoiding this could be suggesting that staff book annual leave if they feel they may be ‘too tired’ the next day to come into work or holding the party on a Friday assuming your employees don’t generally work Saturdays.

Christmas and the tax man

There is a tax exemption for employee entertaining, but there are special rules that apply. The relief only applies to ‘annual parties’ available to all staff and is set at £150 per head. This figure is inclusive of VAT. If the cost of qualifying parties goes over £150 per head then unfortunately all the costs (not just those above £150 per head) are taxable as a benefit in kind. It is important to note that the cost of the party is the whole cost of the event, from the start to the end. Taxis home and any overnight accommodation have to be included in the calculation. If the limit is exceeded the benefit must be reported on each employee’s P11D, so beware before you book your annual Christmas party!

Christmas and gift giving

Gifts to employees

When considering giving Christmas presents to employees it is important to remember that any gift paid in cash to employees will always be taxable along with other earnings. The same treatment also extends to vouchers that can be spent in either one or a number of different shops of the employee’s choice. The employee has to pay tax on the full value of the voucher.

Corporate Gifts – ‘Small’ gifts from third parties’

It is worth noting that gifts can also often be received by your employees from third parties due to contact they may have had with throughout the year as a result of their employment. As long as such gifts do not exceed £250 in cost, it won’t be taxable for the employee. You will need to consider the company’s policy on corporate gifts and what can and cannot be accepted and how these gifts are distributed.

Christmas is a special time of year, a time that people look forward to a well-earned break and seeing family and generally the workplace and the world seems to be a happier place. So, our top do’s and don’ts for this Christmas in the workplace are:

– Do decorate the office, but remember paper chains are flammable.

– Do radiate the Christmas spirit

– Do have a secret Santa

– Do celebrate Christmas at work

But,.….

– Don’t be “that guy” at the Christmas party

– Don’t be the talk of all office gossip after the party

– Don’t encourage staff to overindulge with alcohol

– Don’t be a scrooge

And,…

Do have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

HRREV Blogger, HR Revolution | HR Outsourcing UK

Keep your employees focused this December…

Although Christmas is technically celebrated over three consecutive days, Christmas obsessed, festive loving individuals will always go out of their way to make Christmas a month long celebration. Now I am no Scrooge but the business world doesn’t stop just because copious amounts of fairy lights go up and Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ gets stuck on repeat. For this reason it is good to strive for a balance that reflects ‘being all for the Christmas celebrations’ whilst keeping your businesses productivity levels high.

How to integrate Christmas into your business without losing sight of ‘getting the job done’.

1. Start a Christmas committee; anyone who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Christmas can get involved. The idea is to have an initial meeting surrounding the planning of Christmas activities and then allocate time throughout December to carry them out. When you allocate time to Christmas and separate the celebrations from ‘worktime’ it will give those who love Christmas something to look forward to, making them less inclined to lose focus at the times where they shouldn’t. This could be secret Santa, decorating the office, planning the office Christmas party, organising Christmas bake off/morning tea or encouraging ridiculous dress up themes.

2. Have a Christmas or end of year party away from the office and after hours; when you put on a paid for function, you will generally find that people are happy to attend in their personal time and it also means you’re not taking your employees away from their work. Parties during work hours are fine too, however be prepared for the best part of the day to be unproductive. Click here to read more about the Christmas dos and don’ts of the workplace.

3. Set the pace; if your business is generally quiet this time of year create proactive things for your teams to do/put in place to ensure they continue to keep busy (while you continue to pay them). This will keep the team focused on getting organised for the New Year which is integral if they are not dealing with their typical busy work load. These things could be anything from a spring clean, to getting your team to write their ‘to do list’s/plans’ for the following year. You could also use this downtime for training and development to ensure all that training that you’ve been meaning to do, actually gets done!

4. Set the expectations AND the right tone; try to avoid the condescending “keep focused emails” as they tend to make your team feel like you have no confidence in their commitment. Instead send THANK YOU emails! Say how much you appreciate their hard work this year and that would you love their help in making December productive, so you can finish the year with a bang! Reminding your team how much you value their dedication and commitment is a great way to ensure it continues throughout December.

5. Manage the festive spoilers; if someone is persistently late into work /coming back from a break or arriving at work hung-over or drunk, these behaviours need to be address separately and privately. No matter how well-meaning a group message might be, this is highly likely to disengage those who are doing the right thing. On the other hand, if it is not addressed, it can bring down the office productivity levels. Don’t be tempted to let these issues slide just because it’s Christmas… If you need to have these conversations, then you need to have them… promptly! It is probably a good time to check your employee handbook to ensure you have relevant time keeping, alcohol and other related behavioural policies in place.

HRREV Blogger, HR Revolution | HR Outsourcing UK