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.

 

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

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”…. You know the type, the guy  everyone avoids because they spill 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 and do not let them anywhere near the photocopier! 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. Don’t forget to have a bit of fun though after all it is a party.

(Oh and ladies you are no saints either, quick tip… steer clear of too short, too tight and too low attire and easy on the snowballs!)

We have our Christmas party next week, so check out next weeks blog about how to survive the day after!

Enjoy one and all the HRREV Blogger