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Friday, 08 December 2023 14:27

Keeping Christmas Incident Free

As the last few Christmases have been affected in one way or another by Covid, there hasn’t been much need to write about employer and employee duties and responsibilities during workplace seasonal festivities. Even last year, the legacy of restrictions and the ongoing risk of infection kept things relatively tame.

This year however is the first completely unfettered Christmas for some years, and the workplace party is fully back on the agenda. For those of us who have experienced a ‘good ole Christmas party’, it might feel just like the old days. Remember though that this may be the first time that many younger workers have attended a work arranged event where colleagues and alcohol combine in the same space.

The key point to note, and to share with all employees, is that even when it’s held off-site and outside normal business hours, your work’s Christmas Party is deemed as an extension of work. Therefore, the standards and behavioural expectations we adhere to in the workplace should extend to the event.

Indeed, there’s as much, if not more, reason for employers to take their responsibilities towards their employees seriously, particularly when alcohol is involved, and staff are in a relaxed, high-spirited environment.
Social attitudes towards equality and diversity in recent years have developed markedly, so employers should have no qualms in ensuring their staff fully understand that behaviour that is considered to be unacceptable in the workplace, will be treated with equal gravity if it occurs at a work event. This includes sexist or racist remarks or intimidating conduct by any member of staff, no matter how senior.

Legally, the Equalities Act and Corporate Manslaughter feature more prevalently these days as areas of concern and employers can suffer severe consequences for failing in their duty of care towards employees.

Its right to reward your team for their hard work throughout the year, and Christmas presents an obvious opportunity for this. It makes sense to take advantage of the festive atmosphere and a party or event can also work as a team building exercise.

Here we’ve compiled some top tips to help ensure your Christmas event goes swimmingly:

  • No-one wants to be a killjoy, but a reminder of the expected standards of behaviour is a good idea. An informal word from a line manager to remind staff that they will still be under work ‘rules’ will probably suffice. If you think it’s required however make a more formal notification or send a blanket email.

  • Make sure that anyone who chooses not to attend the party for whatever reason isn’t disadvantaged. If partygoers get extra time off work make sure that non-partygoers get time off too, even if it’s taken at another time.

  • Whilst Christmas is a Christian Religious festival, the Christmas party should be seen as morale booster or team building event whereby employers thank their staff for their hard work and loyalty. As such your celebrations should be designed to include all staff and so should cater for different religions and beliefs

  • Alcohol is likely to feature in most parties and with it comes its own raft of complications. Making soft drinks available should go without saying but if your venue of choice is a pub, its association with alcohol may prove offensive to some.

  • Think about briefing speakers or entertainers beforehand to ensure that their material is suitable and won't cause offence or breach the Equality Act 2010. Think of any staff members’ health conditions too including their mental health.

  • People can become less guarded about what they say or do after a drink or two. Even if it’s not intended to be malicious or offensive, a throwaway comment or action by a member of staff can still be received as such by another. As an employer you have a duty of care to protect your staff from inappropriate behaviour from other staff.

  • Consider the risks attached to accepting offers from employees to provide food; not just around food poisoning but religious and allergy issues too. Sticking with external venues and caterers may be a safer option.

  • If you’re hanging decorations, consider any Health & Safety implications, particularly fire risks. Christmas lights that are locked away for most of the year are likely to have missed out on PAT testing.

  • Your duty of care should extend to getting staff to and from the venue safely. This may mean organising taxis or buses so that no-one is tempted to drink and drive, and vulnerable people aren’t walking home alone.

  • You may want to time the party to minimise impact on workers the following day. If you employ drivers for example, a Friday night party will mean staff are less likely to need to drive the following morning when they might still be under the influence of alcohol.

Despite these considerations, remember to enjoy yourselves and have a good time; which will be easier to do if you have set the ground rules and your party runs incident free. For help and advice either before or after your office party, we’re here to help as usual on 01452 331331 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  

Read 437 times Last modified on Friday, 08 December 2023 15:12

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