A Solicitor’s Top Ten Tips for Xmas Parties

Once again it’s that time of year where the workplace gears up for the office Christmas Party and the frolics and revelry that goes with it. However Employers should consider a few handy tips in advance and in anticipation that everything goes smoothly and to ensure that there are no legal hangovers in the New Year.

Here are our top ten tips for a hassle free office Christmas party:-

1. Food and drink
Some careful thought needs to be given to food and drink without falling foul of discrimination laws. Consideration therefore needs to be given to the following:

  • Dietary requirements – do consider religious and disability related requirements. If there is a sit down meal then ensure that there are options to cater for religious and disability requirements. Ask employees in advance if they have any special dietary requirements.
  • Alcohol – Not everyone drinks alcohol for religious reasons or because they need to drive home. Do ensure that there is a selection of non-alcoholic beverages available. It may also not be a good idea to have a free bar and to limit the number of free alcoholic drinks for each person.

2. Disabled employees
Do ensure that disabled employees can access the premises, especially if at a venue away from the office. It would be wise to ask a few questions about access to the venue in advance of the Party.

3. Gay employees
When inviting employees and their partners and spouses do ensure that you do not discriminate against gay employees. Do ensure that the invitation includes employees with same sex partners. Once again this will prevent the employer falling foul of discrimination laws.

4. Employees with child care commitments
Do ensure that you cater for employees who may have child care commitments and who either are unable to attend or may have to leave earlier. The same consideration should be extended to those employees who have dependants to look after.

5. Consider issuing a statement to employees
Sometimes employees over-indulge at these events and employers need to realise that they are still responsible for the actions of their employees out of working hours. A timely reminder to employees before the party as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour is therefore sensible and recommended. This should remind employees that they are expected to maintain appropriate standards of behaviour, and that drunken, bullying, sexist and other intimidatory behaviour will not be tolerated. This is especially important if the venue is also being shared with other businesses and third parties.

6. Inviting employees to the Party
Christmas is a Christian holiday and therefore do not pressurise employees from other religious faiths or no faiths into attending. Some employees may have childcare commitments as is mentioned above and so they should also not feel pressurised into attending.

7. Implement and remind employees about your internal policies and procedures
Do update your internal policies such as your Equal Opportunities Policy, anti-harassment and bullying policies, and ensure that employees are aware of them. Do train senior managers on these policies.

8. Consider hiring transport
It is a good idea to ensure that employees and their guests get home safely from the Party and so consideration should be given to arranging taxis or a coach to ferry employees back home.

9. Consider appointing a ‘sensible person’
You could consider appointing an employee to remain sober during the party who can intervene in the event of any problems or if things get out of hand.

10. Post Party issues
Employers should be clear about their expectations regarding any absences the day after the party. Do re-iterate that you expect staff to attend work on time and that sickness absence will be monitored. Remind staff about your disciplinary procedures if they do not attend work on time or at all and that their reasons for lateness or sickness absence are not genuine. Invite staff to book a days’ annual leave on a first come first served basis if they do not want to attend work the next day. If any members of staff wish to make a complaint for example about being harassed at the Party then do ensure that such complaints are thoroughly investigated as part of a grievance procedure.

Some of these measures may seem a little bit draconian and could put a dampener on the event. However by following these tips it will ensure that employers are in a better position to deal with any problems that might arise both during and after the office Christmas party.

That just leaves me to wish all readers and clients of Bloomsbury Law a very happy Christmas and a stress and problem free 2016.

Steven Eckett

Call Steven Eckett on 020 7998 7777 or email him at steven.eckett@bloomsbury-law.com.

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