It’s that time of year again!  The early weeks of December are all about advent calendars, Christmas shopping and the traditional “company Christmas party”.

The party is a chance bring all areas of the business together to mark the festive season, celebrate successes achieved in the year and build rapport between teams.  However, there’s potential for a HR hangover that could last far beyond the day after the night before.

Bringing together a group of colleagues who may not be used to socialising with each other, then adding various amounts of alcohol (and Christmas spirit) into that mix can be a cocktail for disaster.

The vast majority of parties and other work events pass off without a hitch and a good time is had by all.  But disagreements and poor behaviour can get out of hand, spoil the party and potentially cause an HR headache that lingers for a long time.

There is employment law precedent that identifies workplace events (such as the office Christmas party) as work event so employers can be held accountable for the behaviour of their staff – even into the wee small hours.

Preparation and good management can help mitigate the risk post party grievances and more by taking reasonable steps to try and prevent problems from occurring.  Here are our 5 tips to help your Christmas party goes without an HR hitch:

  1. Make sure your Christmas party plans are inclusive

Not everyone drinks alcohol, or is able to eat certain foods, some venues might be inaccessible for your disabled team members, those with young children might not be able to make evening events, or some staff may not celebrate Christmas at all.  Simple adjustments like checking your venue is accessible, providing alternatives to alcohol, making sure you ask about dietary requirements, and swapping an evening do for a lunch time meal might prevent people from feeling excluded.

  1. Make sure you’ve invited everyone

To prevent claims of discrimination you must make sure you’ve invited everyone. This includes those on Maternity / Paternity leave, those on long term sick leave, and those that work part time or work from home.  If partners are invited, be mindful of the wording you use on your invitation to avoid discriminating against anyone based on their sexual orientation.

  1. Remind staff the party is an extension of the workplace and normal rules apply

You may want to reiterate your HR policies, expectations and the consequences of any inappropriate behaviour.  After a bit of merriment, some people can get overzealous and distasteful jokes, remarks and colourful language can often be a problem.

  1. Discuss and communicate your rules regarding photography and social media use

Don’t underestimate the damage that can be done by social media. Staff posting their Christmas party antics online or publishing photos of other staff who may not have given their consent might be hugely embarrassing and lead to complaints and bad feeling. Photos might also be inadvertently shared with business contacts online so it’s a good idea to have a policy in place before the party to manage this.

  1. Encourage responsible drinking

Last, but not least – You should encourage responsible drinking, try to limit the amount of free alcohol available and ensure the bar staff are instructed to refuse alcohol where appropriate. It’s also a good idea make food part of the celebrations.  PLUS, remind staff that they should never drink and drive, encourage them to make sensible plans ahead of time to get home safely.

For more information or advice & support on HR challenges within your business please contact us at [email protected] or 01484 841776