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Bah HRumBug – Christmas Party Planning

We are reaching the end of another year which has been full of yet more, novel pressures and challenges for employers, not least in responding to a post Brexit world, navigating the hybrid workforce, three Prime Ministers and preparing for a looming recession.

The Christmas season is generally considered to be a great opportunity to put these pressures to one side and enjoy time with colleagues outside of work. With a few key steps set out below, your HR team and line managers can also click on ‘Out of Office’ and enjoy a prosecco or two without the doom of having a post-party disciplinary investigation on their priority list.

So, without too much of a heavy hand (you don’t want to undo the goodwill of throwing a great party), politely and respectfully remind colleagues that contrary to popular belief, employers can be held responsible for incidents that occur during a company social occasion, whether or not the organisation funded the party or if the management were present. Colleagues are therefore required to:-

  • Re-familiarise themselves with the provisions of the organisations’ equalities and diversity policies and code of conduct/company rules.
  • Remember that whilst in attendance at their office Christmas party, they are representing the company, and any behaviour that could be deemed damaging to the company’s reputation, such as drug misuse, discrimination, bullying or harassment, violence or sexual misconduct will be addressed accordingly.

In advance of the party, HR and line managers should make time to:

  • review and or update relevant policies and procedures and risk assessments
  • ensure that responsible individuals are in attendance who are clear on the policies.
  • consider arranging transport for after the party to ensure no one drinks and drives.

Of course, an employer as a legal entity must also be mindful of falling foul of discrimination law, not just vicariously through the actions of its employees. In prepping the party, consider conducting an equalities impact assessment to ensure that no protected groups are discriminated against by the celebrations. For example, in sending out invites, substitute any traditional references to ‘spouses’ with ‘partners’ and provide food and drink choices which are inclusive to all religions and cultures, and which take account of dietary requirements.

These recommendations may sound like a lot more work on top of actually organising the event and coping with the usual year-end pressures. However, in the hindsight of New Year, you will be glad you made that effort.

If in the unfortunate event it is necessary to instigate the disciplinary procedure, then be sure to do so fairly, consistently and in a non-discriminatory way. What is most important is that you do not brush it under the carpet, as by ignoring it, you may face discrimination or victimisation complaints further down the line.

If you need any further advice on handling Christmas parties, please do get in touch. For advice on other issues faced by HR in the run up to Christmas, see our Blog Christmas in the Workplace’ or book onto our upcoming seminar