Could your festive party fuel discrimination claims?

  • Equality & Diversity
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Not everyone celebrates Christmas.

And whether that’s due to religious reasons or personal preference, your carefully-planned Christmas party could leave some employees feeling awkward.

Meaning you could face raised tensions, a lousy atmosphere, or even discrimination claims… all things you’d rather avoid this festive season.  

So, learn how to protect your business this Christmas with our inclusive tips below.  

Be mindful of other festivities

There’s nothing wrong with making a fuss about Christmas at work. However, if you only single out Christmas – when staff celebrate other cultural events – you could cause resentment among your team.

So, try to weave other religious holidays into your workplace calendar.

For example, if you have staff who celebrate Eid or Hannukah, brush up on their traditions and host celebrations at work.

This gives staff the chance to learn something new about their co-workers. And most importantly, it means all staff feel respected at work – so they’re more likely to give you their best and return the favour with loyalty. 

Review your Christmas annual leave policy

Some businesses have a mandatory Christmas shut-down for all staff – which requires staff to use their leave.

And while this might be more cost-efficient if demand is low over Christmas, staff could resent being forced to book time off. Especially for a holiday they don’t celebrate…

Instead, allow staff to continue working over the festive break if they like.

If it’s too expensive to open up over Christmas, consider giving staff the option to work remotely if possible. You could tweak your employee’s duties to include jobs they can tackle from home.

Similarly, if you need to stay open over Christmas, don’t assume your non-Christian staff won’t want time off. Give your workforce an equal chance to book holiday with a fair ‘first-come first-served’ system.

And remember, Christian staff aren’t more entitled to take Christmas off due to their faith. Make sure staff are aware of this to avoid any conflict over the rota.

Leave all invitations open to everyone

Whether it’s a carol service or Secret Santa, avoid making assumptions about whether staff want to attend festive events.

Not inviting staff due to assumptions about their religion could fuel bullying or discrimination claims. And even if employees would rather opt out, it’s up to your staff to make that decision – taking that choice away from them could cause upset.

Equally, don’t enforce festive events. It’s important to leave the invitation open for all and allow staff to make a decision that feels right for them.

Use more inclusive seasonal language

Of course, wishing staff a ‘Merry Christmas’ isn’t wrong in itself.

Just like you would wish Muslim employees ‘Eid Mubarak’, it’s perfectly safe to wish Christian workers a ‘Happy Christmas’.

However, be mindful of using Christmas-centric language when speaking to those who don’t celebrate the holiday. Instead, stick to non-specific terms like ‘happy holidays’ or ‘seasons greetings’ when you speak to your workforce as a whole. 

Make adjustments at festive events

If your employee doesn’t celebrate Christmas, they may feel out of their comfort zone at festive events. So to make your employee feel more at ease, make sure you cater to different cultural or religious requirements.  

For example, if your employee follows the Islamic faith, make sure there are halal options and non-alcoholic drinks at your Christmas meal out.

Support your staff through the season

Religion isn’t the only reason why your employee might not participate with Christmas events.

With a big focus on family, Christmas isn’t an easy time for many. Whether employees are coping with grief or loneliness, festivities can often bring feelings of sadness to the surface.

So if your employee is withdrawing from Christmas for personal reasons, make it clear you’re there to offer support. Directing staff to an Employee Assistance Programme means they can access expert counselling all throughout the festive period and beyond. 

Create an inclusive Christmas with Peninsula

This Christmas, protect your business from risk with Peninsula.

With the UK’s most-trusted HR consultants, you can create an inclusive Christmas for everyone to enjoy. Which means you get through the season free from discrimination claims and unwanted tension…

So whether you’re updating your annual leave policy or need a second opinion on your festive party, get expert advice from our advisers on 0800 028 2420.

And if you’re not yet a Peninsula client, see how our unlimited HR advice can support your business.


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

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