The HR Team’s Christmas

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner again, but the last-minute Covid restrictions which ruined festivities for many last year is expected to make people more excited about, and in favour of, bigger celebrations this year. However, this can cause issues for HR teams if they don’t adequately prepare their staff for acceptable standards of behaviour throughout the Christmas period. There are 4 main events organisations should make advance accommodations for:

  1. The Christmas Party

A work Christmas party is common amongst most organisations across the UK. These can range from family-friendly Santa visits to in-office Christmas lunches or wild night’s out. Whatever employers choose to do, they must first tackle the responsibility of updating their workers on appropriate conduct whilst attending work events and the consequences of falling foul of acceptable standards. Employees should be reminded that they are still representatives of the business when attending a work-organised function so any arguing, fighting, offensive comments, or similar incidents, can be dealt with as a conduct issue in line with the organisation’s usual disciplinary procedure. Similarly, any employee who experiences untoward actions whilst in attendance should raise their concerns through the normal grievance channels. Employers can be held vicariously liable for the unlawful actions of someone else (including their employees) so they must show they are pro-actively doing everything they can to avoid such instances occurring.

  1. The Homeworker’s Christmas

Remote working has become commonplace as a result of the pandemic, so there will likely be many staff members who have either never interacted with their teams in-person, or it has been a long time since they did so. As such, organisations may wish to host all Christmas related events in a virtual manner, so as not to make employees who enjoy reduced social interaction feel uncomfortable. HR managers should take steps to ensure nobody is excluded from social activities and discuss individual concerns on a one-to-one basis. Send by post Secret Santa’s may take place but employees shouldn’t feel pressured to participate if they don’t want to and should give agreement to the sharing of their home address, to adhere to GDPR rules. Similarly, employees should also provide consent if the organisation or its workforce want to share pictures of them on social media accounts.

  1. The Employee Who Takes It Too Far’s Christmas

Whilst Christmas aims to be a merry time for all, some may over-indulge and forget their professional duties and responsibilities. An individual may be the model employee at the work-organised event but turn into a troublesome elf when out with friends or family members at personal events. Those who turn up to work late or under the influence can be subject to the organisation’s disciplinary procedures, as can employees who don’t turn up to work at all. However, employers may be limited in their actions if an employee calls in sick the day after a heavy night of partying since, legally, they are able to self-certify any absence for up to 7 days. In the event that the person is unreasonably taking advantage of the business, action can be taken for multiple periods of unlinked absences, but employers should be careful that there are definitely no health conditions or underlying reasons which have caused the time off.

  1. The Government’s Plan B Christmas

The Government has confirmed its plans should Covid cases continue to rise throughout the winter months. This includes the implementation of mandatory face masks, utilisation of the NHS Covid Pass at large events and the return to home working. These changes may impact arrangements organisations have made to bring their staff together to celebrate Christmas and their work achievements over the previous year. As such, employers should prepare for making changes and put in place other ways they can safely socialise with their teams. This may mean splitting the workforce into smaller groups, so they only interact with their team or department, in line with the Government’s reduced numbers at gatherings. Organisations should also keep in mind the last-minute nature of previous government decisions and be prepared to act quickly should announcements be made. In the unfortunate event that the public are entered into a firebreak-style lockdown, employees may submit requests to take or change their annual leave arrangements.

Suggested Resources