Love it or loathe it, office Christmas party time is here. Despite face to face Christmas parties being a washout in 2020, they will be back with a bang when it is safe to do so.
This year, many businesses are having their office Christmas party online. Whilst this does remove some of the more personal HR problems office Christmas parties bring, it doesn’t eradicate them all.
But don’t worry-the Metis HR guide to avoiding an HR headache after the office Christmas party will help you navigate this problematic tradition.
What Are The Potential Problems At An Office Christmas Party?
Throw together a group of people who don’t normally see each other socially, add some alcohol and the letting down of hair and you have seemingly endless opportunities for offence to be caused and bad behaviour. Sometimes the bad behaviour is fairly innocuous and sometimes it is very serious.
Some serious office Christmas party problems are:
- Sexual harassment
- Violence and aggression
- Damage to property or theft
- Verbal abuse or hate speech
- Bringing the company into disrepute
It doesn’t always have to be alcohol-related, either. There are some very cringe-worthy horror stories here that no doubt resulted in a big metaphorical mess for HR to clean up.
Ask any HR professional and they will be able to tell you of a time when the office Christmas party has resulted in a grievance, a disciplinary, or even a dismissal. This can be stressful and costly. What’s more, it can damage morale and productivity.
‘If you do need to carry out a disciplinary, manage a grievance, or dismiss a colleague over behaviour at an office Christmas do, get advice from an HR professional. An outsourced HR advisor, like us here at Metis HR, can help with that and ensure you don’t break any rules or leave yourself vulnerable.’-Alison Driver-MD of Metis HR
Even if they don’t go as far as that, bad feeling between colleagues over an ill-advised comment or action at an office Xmas party can grow. This can lead to an unproductive and unhappy workplace. Workplace mediation can help pour oil on troubled waters by facilitating the agreement of a truce or resolution.
Prevention is better than cure, though, so let’s have a look at how you can avoid some of the possible pitfalls.
Set A Booze Policy
For most people, getting in the Christmas spirits is part of the fun of the office do, and many employers like to show their appreciation to their staff by paying for a few drinks.
You don’t have to dig too deeply on the internet to find a hundred horror stories of drunken people acting unacceptably or criminally because they were too drunk on a work’s Christmas ‘do’.
There are some interesting examples of tribunals resulting from Christmas party incidents here.
Because the office ‘do’ is legally seen as an extension of the workplace, it is acceptable, advisable even, to implement a policy or expectations about alcohol and behaviour in general on the night.
You might want to set a limit to the number of drinks your colleagues can have, or you might just decide to remind them of the consequences before the event.
Have plenty of soft drinks on offer so people do not keep drinking out of convenience. You could also shut the bar early.
However, this might not be a popular idea so if you are worried that staff getting too drunk will be an issue, consider having a party that doesn’t hinge on booze. Themed days, meals out, and team building activities are all fun alternatives.
Avoid Indirect Discrimination
Christmas parties are the prime opportunity for indirect discrimination-especially if you have people who do not celebrate Christmas in your company.
This is discrimination that excludes a person or a group because of a limitation or stipulation of a protected characteristic. For example, holding the office party in a pub excludes people whose religion forbids them from entering a pub.
Having an activity-based Christmas party might exclude colleagues with a physical disability.
Be sure you consider your workforce and plan an event that includes everyone and don’t forget colleagues on maternity leave or off long term due to illness.
The morning after the night before can be tricky if you are in HR, as people ring in sick with mystery illnesses or attend but are unproductive and unfit for work.
If your staff Xmas party is on a weeknight, consider how you can prevent an upturn in absences.
You might stagger start times, allow people to work from home, or plan an ‘easy’ day of catching up on those long put off tasks and allow casual clothes.
Or you might decide to treat the day after as a normal working day and have a zero-tolerance approach to absences the day after the Christmas party.
It is something you should consider before the event, or you could end up with a few disciplinaries to deal with.
Remind People Of The Rules
Remind your colleagues before the party of the standards of behaviour expected, the rules of the business, and the consequences of breaking those rules and expectations.
It can help to prevent any poor behaviour if you just gently remind your colleagues that they are expected to behave in a certain way and there will be consequences if they fail to do so.
We can help you review your policies and contracts of employment to make sure they cover all bases and will protect the company against any eventualities.
Ready To Speak To An HR Professional?
If you would like more help and advice around making your Christmas parties fun for everyone during and after, get in touch. The first consultation is complimentary. Call us on 01706 565 332, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in our contact form here.