The HR Department has put together some tips to enable employers to relax and enjoy the festive season.
TIP ONE: Remind your Employees of the Rules
It may be humbug, but normal rules when representing the company, also apply at the Christmas party. Employers should ensure that employees understand the standard of conduct expected of and that they are expected to observe the provisions of the Dignity at Work and Bullying and Harassment policies at work related events. Employers may need to consider amending policies to include references to work related social events, or introducing them if such policies are not in place.
Set out clearly what is expected of employees in advance by sending an email that provides clear written guidance to all employees about acceptable standards of behaviour and reminding them that the party is an extension of the work place. Make it clear that fighting, excessive alcohol consumption, the use of illegal drugs, inappropriate behaviour, sexist or racist remarks or harassment and comments about sexual orientation, disability, age or religion will not be tolerated. Explain that disciplinary action may be taken for unacceptable behaviour.
TIP TWO: Be Considerate
If the Christmas party is out of hours, understand that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent them attending. Employers also need to be sensitive to employees who don't drink alcohol or who don't eat certain foods, and should ensure there are non-alcoholic drinks available and alternative food options. It is important to be mindful that allowing employees to bring their partners must not discriminate on the ground of sexual orientation. It should not be assumed that all partners are of the opposite sex and invitations should be opened up to all.
TIP THREE: Don’t Offer a Free Bar
Try not to encourage excessive alcohol intake as a result of offering employees a free bar. The majority of incidents that could potentially land employers in trouble tend to be as a result of too much alcohol. Remember, as it is a company party, the employer is liable for any ‘mishaps’, including physical injuries, so you may want to consider restricting the amount of free alcohol available and should be prepared to ask individuals not to drink any more if they appear worse for wear.
TIP FOUR: Keep an Eye on Social Media
We've all heard that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but this isn’t the case when it potentially comes to images or footage from a Christmas party going viral on social media sites for all the wrong reasons. Employers should confirm with employees that they are aware either through the company Social Media Policy or specific guidelines circulated in advance of the Christmas party, that employees are not permitted to upload material on social media sites which would unfavourably affect the reputation of the employer. It’s important to communicate that such conduct may result in the employee being disciplined in accordance with the employer's disciplinary policy.
TIP FIVE: Don’t Make any Promises
Managers should avoid discussions about performance, promotion, salary or career prospects at the Christmas party, especially if alcohol has been taken. Words of encouragement and good intentions can be misinterpreted and may cause future issues.
TIP SIX: Your Employees are Your Responsibility
The vast majority of employees will have successfully made their way home from a night out in the past, however employers still need to give consideration to how they will do employees will make it home from the party. In an email prior to the event, include advice about not drinking and driving, as an employer may still be responsible for its employees driving home from an office party. Ask employees to plan their journey home before attending the party.
TIP SEVEN: Consider having the Christmas Party at the Weekend
Having your office party in the middle of the week often lowers productivity levels the following day, as those who haven’t called in sick or booked annual leave for the day after will barely be functioning. As well as lower productivity, employers need to be mindful of health and safety policies, especially for employees who drive or operate machinery. An employee should not be at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol so that they do not endanger their own or another person's health and safety at work.
Employers should communicate that employees who report to work the day after the Christmas party are not to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Having your party at the weekend ensures that employees can be unproductive on their own time, as well as save you from potential health and safety risks.
TIP EIGHT: Discipline Later
Consider appointing a “sensible” person to stay sober at the party who can intervene if things start to get out of hand. In the circumstance that something unfortunate does happen, do not discipline any employees at the party itself as this could cause further issues on the evening. Send the person at fault home if necessary and deal with the incident when you are back at the office.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from The HR Department
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.