HR Guide to Planning the Christmas Party

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Written by: Alcumus
11th December

Without wishing the year to pass more quickly than it already has, by the time this article hits the printing press Christmas will almost be upon us.  This often results in our HR team receiving questions regarding Company Christmas Parties!  

It seems that with every passing year, and ever-increasing employment legislation, not to mention case law precedent, it is almost impossible not to offend someone when trying to organise such events and as we all know you can’t please all of the people all of the time! 

Some employers feel the Christmas Party is a great way to express their appreciation for everyone`s efforts throughout the year and part of the appreciate is shown by paying for the party including providing food and drinks. Employees need to be aware that although such events may be held outside of normal working hours, the normal rules of behaviour still apply.

Include all staff

“But I don`t drink” “I don’t eat meat” you may hear people cry.  Just make sure that there is a non-alcoholic alternative available and any dietary needs can be accommodated, although most restaurants automatically offer vegetarian options and even gluten free these days, perhaps ensure that there are plenty of alternatives available including vegan options and ask people to let you know in advance of any allergies. Just make it clear to all your employees that everyone is invited not withstanding any personal preferences.

Get home safe

Whilst it is a good idea to get everyone together for a festive social gathering and thank employees for their hard work.  Just also be aware of the possible danger of allowing an employee to drive whilst over the drink drive limit and especially where a free bar has been provided! Make sure everyone gets home safe by insisting employees get a taxi or a lift home if they’ve been drinking.

Rules still apply

The Christmas Party is meant to be fun and you want everyone to enjoy themselves, however there may be occasions when an employee behaves inappropriately, and you have to deal with them after the event. Even at Christmas Party outside of working hours, your staff still need to behave in accordance with your normal rules and procedures. 

For example, any employee, who has had too much to drink can still be disciplined for improper and inappropriate language, threatening behaviour or sexual harassment. If sufficiently serious this could lead to dismissal. Do give consideration that any case for dismissal could be weakened if the employer has footed the bar bill, as this action could be deemed almost as condoning the drinking!

If such as case does arise, you will need to investigate the incident and obtain witness statements, in the normal way, and warn the individual concerned that one possible outcome could be dismissal.  Follow a proper procedure and you will not go far wrong, as these days a fair procedure is crucial.

Any acts of violence, excessive drinking, drug take, harassment or discrimination and even inappropriate social media postings cannot be tolerated, and you need to take formal action against anyone over stepping the mark as soon as possible on the return to work.  You would need to follow your disciplinary procedure and take guidance from your HR Consultant.

Be pro-active

It is advisable to take a pro-active stance in relation to your Christmas Party so do consider issuing an e-mail to all staff prior to the event reminding them of the rules and expectations and this may hopefully negate any issues arising, or at least put you in a strong position to be able to deal with any problems.

Our recent webinar covers what employers can do to prepare for Christmas, including holiday/absence management, Religion/Beliefs, Christmas Parties – do's and don’ts and how to handle fall out from Christmas Parties.

If you need any assistance preparing for, or dealing with the fallout from, a Christmas Party contact our team experienced HR Consultants on [email protected] or 01484 439930.

Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Written by Susan Barker, Senior HR Consultant