Beware the Work Christmas Party!
The work Christmas party can be a great opportunity to celebrate what everyone’s achieved through the year and offer a little reward. You can anticipate the BUT, can’t you..?
At a work event, even outside normal hours and away from the workplace, as an employer you may still find yourself liable for unacceptable behaviour. Excess alcohol can increase the possibility of incidents such as sexual harassment or even personal injury, not to mention reputational damage if the event is in a public venue. Without wishing to be a killjoy, it’s important that you remind people in advance that you expect normal workplace standards of behaviour, and warn them of the potential for formal disciplinary action if they fall short. If anything untoward does happen, you should investigate it carefully, just as you would an incident in the workplace.
Consider whether you need to make provisions for getting everyone home safely, as well as any possible impact on the next working day. Might some people still be over the limit for safe driving or operating machinery?
Also be sensitive to cultural and religious differences which might make some people feel excluded or uncomfortable – this could be around alcohol, gambling or the food on offer. You may want to consider alternatives to the standard ‘party night’. Remember to invite anyone currently away from work, for example on maternity leave, but nobody should feel pressurised to attend.
It’s sensible to include some guidelines about posting to social media both during and after the event too! Much better to get make it clear in advance what is or isn’t acceptable.
Avoid too much work-talk at the event. Be extremely careful not to get drawn in to conversations about other people in the workplace or anything touching on pay/ promotion etc – an unguarded comment can set up false expectations and lead to ongoing problems in January.
Remind everyone what standards of behaviour you expect from them, and the possible consequences if they fall short. Then go and enjoy the party!
Please note – the information in this article is provided for general guidance, and is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice in any particular situation.