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HR – The Office Christmas Party

HR – The Office Christmas Party

‘Tis the season to be jolly but for HR professionals, Christmas can throw up a number of potential issues. From appropriate behaviour at office parties to dealing with lethargic employees the morning after the night before, we take a look as some of the most commonly faced matters in our employers guide to creating a problem-free Christmas.

Have fun, but don’t forget…

Nobody wants to be a party pooper and whilst you want everyone to enjoy themselves it is important to remember that a staff Christmas party should be considered as a work activity.   Even if the event takes place away from company premises and outside of working hours, you still have responsibility for your team’s conduct and welfare so it makes sense to put in place some guidelines as to what is expected from employees in terms of their behaviour.

Plan and prepare…

Remind staff beforehand that normal disciplinary procedures apply and matters such as harassment, bullying and fighting will be dealt with in the same way. Take steps to ensure the safety of your staff including checking out the venue beforehand for any potential drunken slip and trip hazards and the arrangements for people getting home at the end of the evening.

Something for everyone

Everybody needs to be included so when you are planning the office party take into account any religious beliefs of your employees as well as the timing of your event – would doing something at lunchtime make it easier for those employees that need to consider childcare arrangements?

Watch what you say

Boozing bosses must avoid ‘talking shop’ with their employees – conversations about promotions, career prospects or salary reviews are best left to appraisal meetings rather than being discussed over mulled wine and mince pies! Even if you can’t remember having the conversation the next day, your employee could expect for those career promises you made to be kept!

Know your limits

You want everyone to let their hair down, relax and enjoy the party atmosphere but keep in mind that potential situations can very quickly get out of hand when alcohol is involved. If the employer supplies the alcohol, or encourages its consumption, they may be legally responsible for the welfare of the employee if they suffer from drink induced disasters – even if they occur outside of the party itself. The best solution is to limit the number of free drinks at the staff Christmas party and be prepared to ask individuals to take it easy if they appear worse for wear.

Ditch the mistletoe 

If you don’t have a policy on workplace relationships in place consider whether you might need one! Staff parties are the perfect environment for a festive fling but this could have repercussions when employees return to work. Whilst a brief encounter under the mistletoe may cause nothing more than a touch embarrassment, it can put strain on working relationships or potentially lead to more serious harassment issues.

Don’t drink and drive

The festive season is one of the most likely times for people to drink and drive. Issue advice on drink driving – and remind people that they may still be over the limit the morning after a night out – and consider putting in place suitable arrangements to help employees get home after the staff party such as hiring a mini bus or arranging taxis.

The day after the night before

It is unlikely that everyone will be in tip top condition the day after the party so you need to decide to what extent you will be lenient with employees that are feeling a bit worse for wear. Make it clear beforehand what the ‘rules’ will be for those arriving at working with a hangover, late or not making it in at all – and be consistent! Ensure that the safety of your employees remains a priority – remind them beforehand of the risks of driving or operating machinery for example – and consider giving them alternative tasks if necessary.