After the last 18 months, it is no surprise that many staff are looking forward to this year’s work Christmas party, especially as we all missed out on them last year. Not wanting to spoil the fun, year on year we get many advice calls following the fall out from the ‘Christmas do’ so employers need to consider what steps they need to put into place to prevent this. In addition, with COVID-19 still very much in circulation, employers need to take this into account as an additional consideration.
Remember, a Christmas party would be deemed to be an extension of the workplace and therefore you can still be held liable for actions of employees whilst in attendance. Any venue chosen for your function should be ‘covid-safe’.
So, what are the potential issues that could arise?
Pre-Christmas can be a busy time for disciplinary and grievance issues, with a lot of issues coming from the office Christmas party. Some of the concerns that may arise include:
- Sexual harassment
- Damage to company or 3rd party property
- Reputational damage
This year, employers also need take into consideration COVID-19 risk. Obviously, wherever there is increased mixing there is the potential for increased transmission and therefore employees needing to isolate. Seasonal peaks in business demand could be impacted if you have a staff shortage resulting from COVID-19 transmission. Many businesses are considering delaying their Christmas Party until the New Year and past their peak demand season in order to avoid this situation.
Even without COVID-19 in the mix, staff may call in sick following a function due to over-consumption of alcohol, or even when attending work, they may be unproductive. You may want to consider whether you will have a zero-tolerance for staff absence following the function and make staff aware of your stance.
What steps can you take to limit risk?
If alcohol is available, or where you want to show your appreciation and provide the drinks, you may want to send out a memo prior to the party about your expectations of their behaviour and alcohol consumptions. You should make it clear of the potential ramifications where their behaviour falls below the expected standard, i.e. disciplinary action.
In addition, ensure all staff have a staff way of making their way home following the event. Could you consider hiring transport for staff? At the very least, you should be encouraging staff to make suitable arrangements prior to the party and remind them of the dangers of drink driving (this includes the following morning if they are due to come into work).
Any other considerations…?
For most companies, a Christmas party is not normally a religious event but rather a way to reward your employees. However, you should consider the religious beliefs, disabilities and any other personal circumstances of all employees when deciding on the venue and arrangements for the celebrations. Perhaps a themed day, a meal out or a team building event would be fun alternatives to consider.