If you are lucky enough to work for an employer which still throws a Christmas party (it’s been reported this year that many are cancelling the annual shindig and making a donation to charity instead), then there are various legal issues which might arise. We have put to together a list of things your employer should be thinking about to make sure it’s all alright on the night!
1. Given the increasing potential for your employer to incur legal liability for things that happen at staff socials, it will probably want to make sure staff are informed about the “ground rules” for celebrations. No one wants to be “bah humbug” but, it is vital that everyone understands what is acceptable. The consequences of any unacceptable behaviour should be made clear. Remember that relevant workplace policies such as the harassment policy continue to apply and that the employer will be able to take action under its disciplinary policy if necessary.
2. An employer should consider the needs of all staff when planning the party. For example, will the timing and location of the party allow for those who need to arrange childcare to take part? Will disabled staff need assistance to get to or, access the party venue? Will the food provided meet all employees’ religious and cultural requirements?
3. An employer should consider ‘elf and safety! Steps should be taken to protect employees during and after the event for example, putting in place arrangements for transport home at the end of the night. If the employer is not providing its own transport it could arrange licensed cabs for staff to ensure they do not take undue risks. Alternatively, the party should be finished in time for people to use public transport.
5. Non-alcoholic drinks should be made available and, if there’s a free bar, it’s likely that some restrictions will be put in place to prevent excessive alcohol intake – like not providing hard spirits or limiting how many drinks one person can order.
6. Remember, not everyone celebrates Christmas. Staff of different faiths or for whom Christmas is not a significant festival shouldn’t be made to feel excluded.
7. Social media postings by staff are a minefield. Keep your social media under control (if you are going to post at all) Don’t risk your own or your employer’s reputation with photographs of staff in party mode, looking worse for wear or, the embarrassment of inappropriate messages. Your employer’s social media policy or rules will apply so remind yourself what these say beforehand if you need to.
8. Employers should have a consistent policy regarding post-party absenteeism. Managers should all be “singing from the same hymn sheet” the morning after the party (if this is a work day, although ideally it won’t be); the employer should decide beforehand how lenient or not it is going to be regarding lateness or absenteeism. Again, this should be communicated to staff so they are fully aware of the consequences of failing to attend work.