Office Christmas Party – The Aftermath!


Photocopiers at the ready, the Christmas party season is upon us!

The Christmas party can be a real headache for business owners and HR professionals so we want to help you plan ahead for this year’s knees up, without the usual stress.

An office Christmas party is considered an extension of the working environment, regardless of its timing or location. Of course, the primary objective of the party is to have fun, but a level of professionalism must remain.

To safeguard against the risk of complaints arising from the Christmas party we have put together some top HR tips to help you when organising the office Christmas party…….and when dealing with any fall out afterwards.

Invite all employees, but don’t insist on attendance.

The key here is equality. Don’t leave anyone out otherwise the individual could have a complaint of discrimination; don’t forget those who are away on family related leave or sick leave. At the same time, don’t insist upon compulsory attendance at the party. Some staff will have responsibilities outside of work, such as parental responsibilities, or some may have religious beliefs that conflict with attending such a party. These responsibilities and beliefs should be respected.

Ensure the venue and entertainment is appropriate.

It is recommended the party is held at a location that is accessible by all your employees, suitable for the age range of your staff, and provides facilities for any staff with a disability.  Venues which might offend those of a particular religion or sex should be avoided as this could result in claims for discrimination.

Entertainment should be suitable and non-offensive. Inviting Bernard Manning as the guest comedian landed one employer with a race discrimination claim.

If you want to set specific standards of behaviour, pre-party guidance is helpful

Pre-party guidance can come across like a statement from the fun police and scrooge-like, so it is not always advisable as it may damage morale. However, if you have specific concerns about potential behaviour at your party, perhaps after previous misdemeanours, or want to set certain standards of behaviour, then pre-party guidance to staff is recommended. This can help curb alcohol fuelled fighting, discrimination or other unwanted conduct.

Don’t make alcohol-induced promises

Any promises to increase salary or promote staff could be binding, or at the very least misconstrued, which could lead to a dispute. Ensure managers are briefed to avoid any such conversations.

Avoid hasty dismissals

One employee has punched another after an alcohol-induced row at the party – what do you do? Firstly, don’t dismiss the perpetrator on the spot, or the “victim” for that matter, and the same goes for any other “spat”. You would be best advised to send the affected members of staff home, after any necessary medical attention is sought, and deal with the matter upon the return to the office.

It may be necessary to suspend staff if allegations of gross misconduct arise. Allegations of misconduct should then be dealt with under your disciplinary policy and procedure, bearing in mind the usual rules around fairness and reasonableness.

Plan in advance for absences

If the Christmas party is taking place prior to a working day, you should consider how you will approach any absenteeism the following day. Will you take a lenient approach or follow usual procedures? If taking the stricter stance it may be worth fore-warning staff about this, which in turn is likely to decrease absences in itself.

Be ready for social media consequences

Staff will be tempted to post pictures or messages on the night or the following day on social media. This could result in inappropriate posts which could raise complaints from other members of staff or damage the reputation of the business. As a result, ensure your business has a social media policy in place that the staff are aware of, under which you can take further action if staff misuse social media in this way.

BTM - Linked In pic

Ben McFeely

Employment Solicitor