Christmas Party Season Approaching – What Employers Should Be Aware Of

Last updated on October 27th, 2017 at 03:10 pm

With planning for the Christmas season well under way we look at some of the problems that this can present for employers and what approaches can be taken to deal with them.

Issues typically relate to: the office party, competing holiday requests, Christmas bonuses, different religions. And of course, all this is happening in a time of economic austerity when companies are looking to cut back on costs but at the same time increase productivity.

In this article, we will focus on the Christmas party itself. So, fun parts aside, are there any pitfalls that employers need to watch out for at the Christmas Party? Yes, there are.

Employers will usually have the same legal responsibilities for occurrences at the Christmas party as they would have during working hours. So careful planning and clear communication should occur before the party so the risk of pitfalls can be minimised.

Health and Safety should be considered. It is important to assess any risks beforehand, not only to reduce the risk of injuries or accidents but also to help defend a claim should something bad happen.

It may be sensible to have one manager designated to avoid alcohol for the night so they can keep a general overview of things and discourage unacceptable or potentially hazardous behaviour.  You may consider limiting the quantities of alcohol available or at least place a limit on the free bar.  Employers should also think about how employees will get home safely after the event.

The potential for harassment and other forms of discrimination is an issue. This is because the risk of harassment occurring will most likely increase when drink is involved.  Harassment involves unwanted conduct which intimidates another employee on grounds of conduct occurs on the grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or belief.  Most employers will typically have a harassment policy in their employee handbook.   This harassment risk also applies to third parties such as clients or suppliers who may be invited to the party.

Try and ensure that the needs of all staff are catered for at the party to avoid discrimination which means ensuring there are enough non-alcoholic drinks available and that there is food available that meets your employee’s religious and cultural requirements.  If you have disabled staff also consider whether any adjustments or physical assistance is needed.

In light of these considerations it makes sense to remind employees of unacceptable behaviour prior to the party without coming across as too much of a kill joy.  This would involve pointing out that employees will be representing the company during the party. It is also worth making a reference to your harassment or discrimination policy – but don’t forget to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

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