In the current economic climate a number of employers are thinking about whether they should be providing a Christmas party this year. However, they can offer a good morale boost and a welcome reward after a tough year, which this year has been heightened by the recession. If holding a Christmas party is the most effective way of achieving and recognising contributions, then employers should be wary about scrapping them in response to the economic downturn because the long-term impact could be damaging to employee engagement and organisational performance. Christmas parties do have some big advantages. They are an effective way to encourage staff to bond as a team and often bring them closer together. They also have a noticeable impact on staff morale, something that employers need to keep on top of during this period of economic uncertainty
Employers providing free drink or putting a credit card behind a bar should be careful. Expecting staff to remain sober, particularly if the employer is providing some or all of the drinks, may be unreasonable. The employer remains responsible for the safety, protection and behaviour of employees for the duration of the event. Employers should monitor alcohol consumption and behaviour. If someone is behaving inappropriately the employer should act quickly to try to diffuse the situation. It is not about stopping people having fun, but about ensuring that everyone is enjoying themselves.
It is very difficult to justify dismissal of employees for behaviour at a company organised social event, and especially where the company is providing the alcohol. If proposing to dismiss a drunken employee, it must be shown that genuine business interests were threatened by their behaviour, and that adequate investigations were conducted. Whether the dismissal is fair will depend on whether the nature of the misconduct was sufficiently grave. However, even when an employee commits a serious act of misconduct, if the employer has condoned or encouraged drinking, this may be seen as a mitigating factor. Make it clear to all employees prior to the Christmas Party exactly what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
However, in an attempt to avoid incidents in the first instance, please consider the following suggestions to ensure as much as possible a safe and responsible Christmas Party and thus protect the company from any potential claims by employees. It is a defence for an employer to prove that it took reasonably practicable steps to prevent unwanted incidents from occurring at the Christmas Party.
- Have a properly drafted Bullying Prevention Policy and Harassment Prevention Policy which clearly states that the organisation will not tolerate bullying, harassment or sexual harassment.
- If your policy does not state that the scope of the policy includes work-related social events ensure you communicate this to your staff before the event.
- Remind staff that inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party will not be tolerated and may be treated as a disciplinary matter, in accordance with the organisation’s Disciplinary Policy. Treat and investigate any allegations seriously.
- Ensure alcohol at the party should be given and consumed in moderate quantities.
- Make transportation arrangements to and from the event.
If you are planning a Christmas party and would like to find out how your business can best prepare, call the Advice Service on 0844 892 2772 and one our trained advisors will be waiting to help.