The office Christmas party is seen by many as time honoured tradition, offering a great opportunity to build camaraderie and reward staff for their hard work throughout the year. However, to ensure these events run smoothly and without incident employers are advised to plan accordingly.
The typical Christmas party often involves the consumption of alcohol and whilst this practice shouldn’t necessarily be banned, employers should consider how inclusive this is. Christmas parties should be suitable for all staff, therefore it is important to make sure aspects such as the venue, activities or catering options are suitable for a diverse range of employees. For example, holding the party in a pub may be considered discriminatory as it could exclude employees with certain religious beliefs from attending, as well as pregnant employees or those below the legal drinking age.
All staff should be invited to attend the party as this will offer a chance to build morale between workers which could lead to increased productivity in the long term. Employers should not withhold invitations from those who have performed poorly, or who they think may not want to attend, as this exclusion could have an adverse impact on employee relations.
The number one concern for employers when it comes to Christmas parties will be employee misconduct, as even the most professional employees may behave inappropriately when they feel they are free from the usual constraints of the working environment. To prevent this, employers are advised to have a policy in place which addresses office parties and work-related social events, outlining that staff have a duty to behave responsibly at all times. Ahead of the event it would also be a good idea to issue workers with a reminder, either by letter or email, informing them that the company’s rules on acceptable behaviour will still apply regardless of where the event is being held.
If incidents of misconduct do occur employers must treat these seriously. The fact that employees were in good spirits or under the influence of alcohol should not be considered an excuse for harassment, bullying or acts of violence. A full investigation should take place to establish the facts of any reported incident and staff should be disciplined appropriately. Certain behaviour in public could reflect particularly badly on the organisation and it is possible to dismiss employees in these circumstances for bringing the company into disrepute.
Often times more problems can actually occur the day after the Christmas party with staff arriving late or phoning in sick. In these scenarios it is important to be able to lean on reliable lateness and absence reporting policies, making sure individuals are aware of the obligation on them to arrive at work on time. Whilst you may believe individuals are fabricating their illness you should not jump to conclusions or subject them to any detriment upon their return. Instead, you should conduct a return to work interview to ensure you are doing your due diligence and keeping a good record trail.
The works’ Christmas party should be a time of joy and celebration, which if managed correctly could have a positive impact on the business as a whole. For this to be the case, a significant amount of thought and planning is required and decision-makers should be alert to the various pitfalls ahead of time.