Day 1 – It’s Christmas Party time and everyone is invited!

Where best to start our series than the office Christmas party! This has traditionally been a good way to celebrate the festive season with colleagues, and enables employers to thank staff for their contribution. Fun should therefore be the order of the day, but how can you make sure that nothing gets in the way of the festive cheer?

  • Invite all employees, including those who may be away from work, for example, on sick or family leave. Communication about the party should be sent to all as if they are at work. Excluding someone on this basis may amount to less favourable treatment if their absence is related to a characteristic protected under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Respect every individual’s choice and ensure staff don’t feel pressure to attend. Some may not be keen on parties or have other plans, others may not wish or be able to attend on religious, health or childcare grounds. If individuals do not want to attend, they should not be disadvantaged as a result.
  • Choose the date and location of the party carefully. Some venues such as pubs may deter employees who do not drink alcohol. Ensure the timing of the party does not exclude any employees who may have childcare or caring commitments (and not able to attend an evening event), or those whose faith may not allow them to attend on particular days of the week. Ensure the location is accessible to any disabled employees.
  • Even if you hold the party off site, remember this will still be an extension of the workplace and you may be held vicariously liable for the actions of your employees. . Be mindful that any post-Christmas party drinks may be deemed to be within the scope of employment (particularly if you have organised and paid for these). It may be prudent to make it clear to staff that any after party drinks are not an organised work event.
  • Give staff a gentle reminder of the standards of conduct expected of them and what might be considered inappropriate. Make it clear that any inappropriate conduct will be dealt with promptly and may result in disciplinary action. Remind staff of your policies on discrimination, bullying and harassment, drug and alcohol use and social media. Alcohol can fuel sexual advances that could constitute harassment. Likewise, there is often gossip following the party and before the night is over, social media pages may be full of content that could cause a headache. Employees should be reminded that they need to think of their own personal and professional reputation, as well as that of their employer, especially if there is anything linking them to their employer on their personal social media pages.
  • Consider how employees can get home safely after the party. You may arrange transport to and from a specific meeting point and/or accommodation, subject to budget. It may be prudent to communicate a strict ‘no drinking and driving’ policy and state the possible consequences of not complying with this.

Whilst taking all of the above into account, remember that the purpose of the Christmas party is to have fun and you can make this happen following the hints above.

Look out for Day 2 of our series, which will be out on Monday 4 December 2023 and will cover the religion and belief aspects of having a Christmas party.

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