Avoiding an HR hangover after the Christmas party

Published: 4th December 2018

Most staff look forward to the office party all year and why not!! 

The tradition of the “Christmas party” is a chance for you to thank your staff for all their hard work and efforts during the year.  However, with spirits running high, you may find yourselves managing Christmas Party HR issues, well into the New Year.

Whilst you should be encouraging staff to enjoy themselves, preparation is key to avoid any HR issues arising and knowing how to cope when they do.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • >>  Before the party, you may want to send out a clear statement about acceptable behaviour and the consequences of inappropriate actions. 
  • >>  Remind staff of HR policies and that any inappropriate behaviour on the night will be treated the same way as during working hours. 
  • >>  It is a work event and they are still expected to act in a professional manner however you expect them to have fun, after all it is a party.
  • >>  You should encourage responsible drinking, try to limit the amount of free alcohol available and ensure the bar staff are instructed to refuse alcohol where appropriate.
  • >>  Remind staff of the dangers of drinking and driving.

 

After a bit of merriment, some people can get over zealous and distasteful jokes, remarks and colourful language can often be a problem.  Jokes can often single out one specific characteristic for example women and this can lead to a potential discriminatory claim.  Sexual harassment claims are one of the biggest risks you can encounter as an employer, when the alcohol is flowing.  What one person may see as harmless flirting, another may view as unwanted sexual attention.  Employers can be held accountable to the behaviour of staff as tribunals view the office party as an extension of the normal work environment.

Although staff are responsible for their own actions, you have an obligation to provide a healthy and safe environment and could be liable for the actions of staff at a party, if you have not taken reasonable steps to prevent inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour.