The office Christmas party is something most employers and employees look forward to, and with good reason, after all they are normally great fun, a chance for team bonding and more often than not improve staff morale. However without the correct forward planning, what should be a memorable and festive event could well turn out to be a complete disaster.
The reason for this is that there are laws and legislations that require employers to be responsible for their employees when on a work do, even if it is outside of normal working hours. Under these legislations, employers should be aware those they:
• Can be held liable for harm (under health and safety laws) or harassment caused to or by their employees, or for negligent acts of their employees.
• Have a responsibility for their staff’s actions, even outside normal working hours or outside of the normal working environment. Any social event organised by the employer is an ‘extension’ of the workplace – regardless of the place or time of the event
• Could fall foul of religious and possibly sexual discrimination laws. Since October 2010 the Equality Act continues to give protection from sexual harassment but now also gives protection to harassment on the basis of disability, age, gender reassignment, race/religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Drinking too much alcohol
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that alcohol is a big factor in Christmas party-related problems. There are some simple things you can do to try and prevent inappropriate behaviour at your Christmas party.
• If you are having a free bar, limit it so people don’t take advantage and have too much to drink – this lowers the risk of fights, accidents and harassment incidents.
• Try and find one or two staff who agree to stay sober, so that they can look out for any unwanted behaviours.
• Ensure that there are non-alcoholic options available
• Consider the needs of all attendees – Will workers be able to arrange childcare at the time of the party? Are there food requirements to meet all cultural needs? Have you taken into account physical support for any disabled staff? How will everyone get home?
• Tell staff what is expected of them and remind them of the disciplinary action should inappropriate be an issue.
• Inform all staff if they are expected in work, on time, the next day!
Christmas should be a happy time, so ensure your festivities allow it to stay that way.