Work Christmas Parties – How To Avoid a HR Headache

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Organising an office Christmas party and want to avoid any HR issues? Read our top tips for how to help everyone in your workplace have a positive office Christmas party experience. 

After years of a pandemic, economic downturns, cost of living crisis, political upheavals and concerning world events, employers are looking to their annual Christmas event to bring some much-needed cheer. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate with staff and thank them for their contribution over the past year. 

But could those plans go awry, leaving you haunted by the ghost of Christmas future (disciplinaries)?

Bah humbug I hear you cry! For who wants to be cast as Scrooge at this time, being seen as the killjoys to some harmless fun? But where there are company-wide parties, there can be alcohol and over-indulgence. Light-hearted banter can escalate into full scale arguments and those long-forgotten frustrations may resurrect themselves, causing tension around the dinner table.

Get the Balance Right

Getting the balance right is critical – allowing people to have fun, whilst looking after their wellbeing. With increased hybrid and remote working, it is also a chance to bring people together and maintain a strong team ethos and build a connection with the company. 

Similarly, hosting an event can make staff feel valued and recognised for their efforts over the past months, fostering higher levels of engagement.

However, it’s also important to be aware of the potential factors which may have a negative impact on employee wellbeing, and how you could best manage these.

Keep an Eye on Alcohol Consumption

Providing a free bar all night can encourage excessive drinking and increase the likelihood of staff behaving inappropriately. You can manage this by offering a set number of complimentary drinks instead and allocating a ‘drinks host’ per table, allowing for some control over the volume of alcohol consumed. It’s also important to make sure that everyone’s catered for, ensuring non-alcoholic drinks are also available.

Manage Anti-Social Behaviour

With the flow of alcohol in large gatherings, it can lead to some anti-social or unwanted behaviour which can have serious consequences. Even where parties are not on your company premises, they are still an extension of your workplace and therefore you may still be liable for any discriminatory behaviour such as sexual harassment or similar claims. Ensure staff are fully aware of your expectations by reminding them of your policies on dignity and respect and on drugs and alcohol misuse. 

Give consideration to the inclusivity of your party arrangements: – whether that’s catering for all dietary requirements, being considerate of timings, venue and accessibility requirements too.

Don’t Exclude Anyone

Not all religions or faiths celebrate Christmas and not everyone likes a party, so attendance should be optional. Some individuals simply don’t like to mix work and social life so it’s important that those individuals are not put under pressure or harassed for non-attendance. Ensure that people’s decisions not to attend is respected and supported. 

Despite their repeated requests over many, many years, Wizzard have not been granted their wish for Christmas to come every day. Which means that employers usually only need to plan for and manage such wide-scale company celebrations on an annual basis.

Getting those plans and logistics right can ensure a joyful start to the New Year for everyone. But get it wrong and you could find the repercussions are felt throughout the year – whether that’s poor engagement scores, grievances or disciplinaries.

We can support you with a wide range of HR services. For specialist HR support with any of these issues, please contact Sue Meehan Boyes in our team on 07384 468797.

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