Christmas Parties – ‘tis the time to eat, drink and be merry or is it!
The office Christmas party - love them or hate them! What can you do to ensure that your Christmas Party doesn’t turn into headline news with embarrassing antics under the mistletoe or as a result of the consequences of too much mulled wine? Many alcohol fuelled overindulgences cause the majority of HR headaches at this time of the year.
We all want our staff to have some “time out” and to have “fun” but employers should be aware that they could be liable for the behaviour of their employees at the office Christmas party, regardless of where it is held. There is an implied duty of care towards employees in the course of their employment and Christmas parties come under this definition. Christmas parties are an extension of the workplace and as such, employees should be made aware that there are still certain standards of behaviour that are expected including any possible consequences of any such breaches.
Kissing under the mistletoe may be a sweet tradition but not so in the workplace. Unwanted conduct or flirty banter can quickly turn a pleasant evening into an unpleasant one which could quite easily turn into a sexual harassment claim. Every employer should not only take steps to protect their employees from such unwanted conduct, but take steps to protect the business from such potential claims.
With the simplicity and easy access to social media platforms using smartphones, there is an increased culture of sharing our experiences in an instant, with antics from a Christmas party going viral before the party has even started. Nobody wants to wake up the next day being reminded of that embarrassing moment or to wake up with your business in the limelight for all the wrong reasons bringing with it bad publicity!
Christmas parties are not for everyone for a variety of reasons. Great care should be taken to ensure that everyone is taken into consideration. It is not only those employees with religious beliefs or those faiths that do not allow the consumption of alcohol or certain foods, but also those who are perhaps, for personal reasons, not quite feeling the Christmas spirit.
By taking a few simple steps, you can reduce the risk of an HR Christmas headache by doing the following:
- Remind employees beforehand that the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace and reinforce your messages that aggressive and/or bullying behaviour, and/or harassment will not be acceptable.
- Make it absolutely clear that if these rules are contravened, the appropriate action will be taken in the same way as if it had happened during normal working hours.
- Ensure that you have appropriate policies in place that clearly sets out acceptable standards of behaviour, clearly setting out any possible sanctions for any breaches.
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