Staff Christmas Parties – The dos and don’ts for employers and employees
The festive period is upon us and many employers will be hosting a staff Christmas party to celebrate another years’ worth of hard work. This kind of event is designed for everyone to relax and enjoy themselves with their colleagues. However, without ruining the Christmas spirit, these events come with an increased risk of harassment, discrimination and unacceptable behaviour. Employees and employers should both be fully aware of their responsibilities to prevent such issues arising.
What should employers do?
Although the Christmas party is a social event, and most likely off of work premises, all members of staff attending are still within the course of their employment. Employers are generally liable for acts of their employees. With alcohol often flowing, inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour can happen. Depending on its nature, this behaviour may constitute one employee harassing or discriminating a colleague. How can an employer take reasonable steps to prevent this behaviour, and therefore protect the company’s liability?
- Training your staff – this is important and should be done consistently throughout the year. Training should be provided to educate members of staff as to what constitutes what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and how to report it.
- Issue a specific statement prior to the event – this will give all attending employees a fresh reminder of the standards that are expected of them at the Christmas party. A reminder that this is a work event and unacceptable behaviour might carry disciplinary action.
- Nominate supervisors – this will allow an element of monitoring to be done within the venue to prevent anyone who might had a few too many drinks from acting irresponsibly. This is not to say the nominated staff cannot enjoy themselves but this process adds an extra safeguard to prevent unwanted behaviour.
Employers may want to consider putting policies in place directly relating to work social events. A policy covering this should include the standard of conduct that is expected whilst making reference to the types of behaviour that would be classed as unacceptable and highlighting relevant disciplinary action that could follow.
Employers should also have in mind the health and safety of their employees in relation to drink driving. Employers should ensure that they strongly remind all of those who are attending and drinking alcohol to pre-arrange a safe ride home. As an employer you could offer to arrange taxis to minimise the risk of any drink driving taking place and to ensure employees return home safely after the event.
In addition, employers should ensure they cater for all attendees of the event. In an ever growing diverse society, it is imperative that people’s dietary and religious beliefs are accounted for as you do not want a discrimination claim brewing before the event has even started. Make sure there is a wide variety of food and drink options – just because it is Christmas doesn’t mean that everyone will be drinking alcohol.
Last but not least, do you have a social media policy? Are you planning on posting photos of the party in the company’s social media channels? This might be a good way to show the world (and prospective candidates) that your firm knows how to celebrate success and has a less serious side to it. But first, make sure employees are aware those photos may be put on the company’s website and social media platforms.
What should employees do?
The Christmas party is organised with the sole purpose of everyone reflecting on another year’s hard work in a relaxing and enjoyable environment. It should be a fun event. Workplace policies are not implemented to prevent fun, they are in place to make sure the enjoyment of employees is not at the expense of others. Employees should be aware of the normal workplace policies as well as the social event ones. Does your workplace have a social media policy? This might include a list of things you cannot post on digital channels. Always remember to ask your colleagues for permission to upload a photo they appear in.
Some employers may offer a free bar but this is not a challenge to drink the bar dry. This is a generous thing to do and should be treated with respect and thus there is no need for employers to drink above their limits.
If you have any questions about what can be done to prevent unacceptable behaviour at the Christmas party, or need help dealing with it afterwards, contact GA Solicitors’ employment law team on 01752 203500 or email rob.zacal@GAsolicitors.com.