- Set a ‘Party Policy’. – From the employer’s point of view, the Staff Christmas Party is a ‘work activity’. It should be treated as such by having guidelines in place. This could be as simple as displaying employees’ responsibilities. For example, putting acceptable standards of behaviour on a notice board. Communicate the employer’s responsibilities. For instance, meeting health & safety requirements and providing grievance procedures to deal with any resulting problems.
- Identify potential hazards. – Just as with any other work-related activity, a risk assessment must be carried out. This will identify potential hazards at the Staff Christmas Party. Additionally, this could involve inspecting the venue to plan for drunken slips and trips. As well as considering the safety of people going home after the event. Also even identifying any potential conflict between employees so that table plans can be organised accordingly.
- Issue behavioural guidelines. – This should be included in the ‘Party Policy’. It should clarify unacceptable behaviour, such as harassment, bullying and fighting. Employees need to understand that, as the Staff Christmas Party is technically a work activity, normal disciplinary procedures would be applied.
- Invite husbands, wives and life-partners. – If inviting employees’ partners to the event, employers need to tread carefully. This should not be restricted to husbands and wives, but also extended to partners of the opposite and same sex. This will avoid potential sexual orientation discrimination claims. The Civil Partnerships Act gives same-sex couples the right to enter into an equivalent of marriage. Therefore, employers should make extra sure that, if inviting partners, same-sex partners are not excluded from festivities.
- Avoid ‘tipple tattle’. – Boozing bosses should avoid discussing promotion, career prospects or salary with employees at parties. Employers shouldn’t use the convivial situation to discuss matters that are more suited to a formal appraisal or private meeting. The employee is likely to expect any career promises to be kept. Even if the employer can’t remember the conversation!
- Limit the spirit. – If the employer supplies the alcohol, or encourages its consumption, they may be legally responsible for the welfare of the employee. Especially if they suffer from drink induced disasters, even if they occur outside of the party itself. The best solution is to limit the number of free drinks at the Staff Christmas Party. Also be prepared to ask individuals to take it easy if they appear worse for wear.
- Don’t poison your staff. – If providing a buffet, the food must be safe to eat. Buffets present a particularly high risk of food poisoning from foods such as cooked meats, eggs, mayonnaise and cooked rice. Food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 90 minutes and should be stored below 5°C.
- Ditch the mistletoe. – The Staff Christmas party is the perfect environment for a festive fling. However, this could have repercussions when employees return to work. A brief encounter under the mistletoe can cause embarrassment in the workplace and put strain on working relationships. While many businesses have informal views on office affairs, most do not have a policy on workplace relationships. You may want to consider whether you need one!
- Curb drink driving. – Employers are responsible for employees’ actions after consuming alcohol they have provided. Sensible bosses will issue advice before the party about not driving after having an alcoholic drink. It is advisable to hire a minibus for the end of the night. Provide numbers of local taxi firms to show reasonable steps have been taken to minimise this risk.
- Don’t expect miracles the morning after. – A contract exists between the employee and employer that they will be in a fit state to carry out the work they are being paid to do. Bosses should decide to what extent they will be lenient to staff coming to work with a hangover. Other considerations are arriving late, or not coming in at all, and then informing employees. More important is the safety of employees, who may not be fully sober the next day. Especially if they need to drive or operate machinery. Employers should either advise employees beforehand not to drink too much alcohol, or remove the risk to safety by giving them alternative work.
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