Avoid an employment law disaster at the Christmas Party

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The run up to Christmas is a great time to celebrate and in time-honoured tradition, many companies still like to have a Christmas party. Whether this is held as a way to reward staff for their hard work throughout the year, as a means of bring staff together for team building or else simply a way to celebrate the end of another year, the Christmas party can be a thoroughly enjoyable event.

However, as some business owners/directors have discovered, employers may find themselves liable for the behaviour of their employees during the Christmas party, sometimes resulting in serious employment law issues to later content with.

Here are some tips for best practice in the hope of avoiding such employment law headaches.

Plan an inclusive event

Issues with Christmas party planning and employment law can begin even before the event itself. When choosing a time, date and location be sure to avoid anything that could be discriminatory against employees. For example, you may want to consider disabled access and the availability of menus that cater to any religious dietary restrictions. It is also sensible to carry out a thorough risk assessment of the venue in advance.

Communication is key

Despite the majority of Christmas parties taking place ‘off site’, staff are still, in effect, representing your company. As such, you will want to avoid any outlandish or unruly behaviour taking place. In the run up to the party you may wish to send out a communication to all staff outlining what is and isn’t considered acceptable behaviour and what consequences employees might face should they fall foul of expectations. If you have a social media policy in place, it might also be worth reminding staff of the contents of this prior to the event.

Decide on an alcohol policy

The majority of issues that arise during or after the Christmas party usually stem from alcohol consumption. As such, it may be that you choose to limit alcohol consumption by way of limiting the amount of alcohol you provide as part of the event or ‘calling time’ on drinks at a sensible hour. It is also worth considering having a member of the senior management team as a designated ‘non-drinker’ on the night. Should any issues arise, it is helpful to have someone who hasn’t been drinking in place to deal with matters.

Dealing with absence and illness

If the Christmas party is to take place on the evening/day before a working day, illness and absence issues can arise. If you give staff enough notice, it may be that they choose to take a day’s annual leave on the day following the party. If any issues do arise ‘the morning after’ you will probably want to commit to taking a firm but fair approach. Any line you decide to take will need to be the same across all employees should you wish to avoid claims of discrimination.

Christmas parties can, and should be, a time for celebration and fun. With proper preparation, this can be the case; leaving business owners/directors free to join in and enjoy the festivities!

For further help or advice in relation to any of the issues raised in this article, please contact DRN’s employment lawyers here.