Posted: 30th November 2016
The firm's annual Christmas party gives employers the opportunity to thank staff members for their contribution over the past year. It is a chance for everyone to relax and enjoy the holidays but this is still a work-related activity.
It is easy to forget that an employer owes its employees certain obligations, even outside work, when the employer has organised the event and that employees' conduct should comply with normal standards and should not breach workplace equal treatment and anti-harassment policies.
Whilst you may worry that setting party policies is a task for Scrooge, they are a valuable precaution for employers to demonstrate that reasonable action has been taken to protect employees.
Make it clear that certain behaviours will not be tolerated:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- The use of illegal drugs
- Sexist or racist remarks
- Comments on disability, age, religion, sexual orientation or gender reassignment.
It’s important for employers to set boundaries of what is deemed acceptable behaviour whilst also acknowledging that staff will want to let their hair down.
Alcohol is served at most firm’s Christmas parties but, as it’s well known, alcohol can loosen tongues and boost confidence so it’s best to avoid conversations about performance, promotion or salaries. A promise made at a Christmas party is still a promise!
Also as an employer be aware of staff members who, for whatever reason, do not drink alcohol. Ensure you are respectful and supply alternatives.
Employers should ensure that all employees are invited to the Christmas party as a matter of good practice. It is best to extend this to employees on maternity or paternity leave to avoid any complaints of discrimination.
Do not insist that all staff attend the Christmas party, particularly if they do not want to on religious grounds. Christmas is a Christian holiday, so not all employees may want to attend or celebrate this.
Another important consideration for an employer, at all times, is health and safety. This is particularly important when choosing the party venue. The employer should carry out a risk assessment of the premises. This includes making sure it’s possible for employees to get home safely, so consider hiring transport or providing taxis if necessary.
Whilst no one wants to overshadow all the positive outcomes of an office Christmas gathering it is sensible to have a separate policy on what is expected of employees at workplace social events and to remind employees of its contents in advance of any function.
Contact us for further advice on all matters in relation to employee behaviour issues and contracts of employment.