It’s office Christmas party season… a chance for everyone to let their hair down and all where the hard work over the last year is celebrated and rewarded
When planning the office Christmas party employers should always bear in mind any concerns and this, year those concerns also include Covid.
So, what should you consider to keep the party festive and avoid any potential issues?
First of all, if you are having a Christmas party,… have a good time and enjoy yourselves – everyone deserves that (this year even more so)!
Will your business still have a Christmas party? The introduction of the new Omicron variant has raised the question as to whether to have a Christmas party at all. Every organisation is different and some larger organisations, where lots of people mix together, may decide they do not want to have a Christmas party at all. At the time of writing, there’s no government guidance stopping you, but that may be a business decision you wish to take.
Departmental parties instead? Some larger businesses have decided to ditch the company wide event and encourage smaller gatherings, which are either team or department based.
Don’t exclude but give the option of non-attendance: Reach out to the members of your team or business with details of the event and also give the option for non-attendance. Some people may feel they don’t want to attend. Employers should be sensitive and empathetic to staff members who do not want to attend.
The venue- Ensure the venue does not pose any health and safety problems and that it is easily accessible for any disabled staff.
‘Tis the season to be jolly- but remember that it’s not all about the mulled wine and mince pies! Employers should ensure they create an inclusive environment with both alcoholic and soft drinks available and also take into consideration the dietary requirements and religion/beliefs of staff. Advanced planning is key!
Plus-ones- if spouses/partners are invited, ensure this invitation is extended to all employees. This will avoid any indirect discrimination.
Don’t lose sight of teamwork! – look out for each other and if someone seems a bit worse for wear and has had one too many mulled ciders, help them safely get a cab home (or inform their plus one).
Clear the desks – make sure your team can be a bit more relaxed on the day of the party and ensure deadlines and work commitments are completed the day before so that you have made every effort to ensure everyone can attend and no one is left out.
No kissing under the mistletoe! Without being a scrooge, it is useful to remind employees of appropriate behaviour prior to the festivities. Remember… it is still a workplace setting and still considered a work environment. Remind your staff that they should be respectful and professional towards each other, as they would be if it were the usual working day. If you have any policies or procedures in place, remind yourself and your managers of them and remember that discrimination laws apply to EVERYONE, not just employees (i.e. workers, contractors and third parties).
Classic “Banter”- Ensure all staff understand the difference between ‘banter’ and bullying or harassment. If it’s not mutual, it’s not banter. If an official complaint is made with regard to unwanted conduct during the event, or afterwards, this must be dealt with formally.
Check government guidance- ensure you are up-to-date with the ever changing guidance on Covid and adhere to any guidance and recommendations.
The morning after the night before– If the next day is a normal working day, be clear about expectations. For example, it may be that employees are expected to attend but can come in at a later time, if agreed with their manager. However, this should be consistent across the workforce and communication (in advance) is key! To quote Matt Hancock; make your decision and stick with it!
Complaints – you should investigate all complaints in accordance with the company grievance procedure, disciplinary policy or other relevant policies such as equality and diversity and harassment. You should seek advice at the earliest stage to ensure any complaint is dealt with properly and effectively.
Finally, we wish everyone a merry Christmas and a healthy and happy new year. May your Christmas parties be fun, festive and free from issues.
Should you wish to discuss anything raised in this blog with us, or anything HR/employment law related in general, please do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0161 478 3800.