‘Tis the season to be jolly… and getting the team together before Christmas for an office party can be a great morale boost for employees and a good way to end the year. However, it can also be a risky game for employers. If proper measures are not taken, it can lead to dismissal of good staff members for acts of alcohol fuelled stupidity.
From emotional outbursts at company Directors and alcohol fuelled fights, to discrimination and absenteeism; dealing with Christmas party feuds is something the HR department prepares for annually.
How to avoid HR disasters at the Christmas Party
Policy -a policy for work social events may help to establish ground rules, or alternatively, simply let staff know beforehand that the party will be an extension of the workplace. Explain the impact of any misconduct.
Nobody wants a party pooper- don’t ruin the fun… remind employees that this is a celebration of the year, and not to spoil it for others.
Invite all – ensure that you invite all staff on Maternity /Paternity. You must also include Agency workers, fixed term temporary and part time staff.
Don’t discriminate - take into account any religious beliefs of your employees as well as the timing of your event for those that need to consider childcare arrangements. If you employ disabled staff who have access requirements, you need to ensure that the venue is fully accessible.
Alcohol- as the biggest cause of most Christmas party related issues for HR, so consider whether or not you provide a ‘free bar’ or excessive drinks on the table. Be aware that if you provide free alcohol, you may not be entitled to hold employees accountable for inappropriate drunken behaviour. Consider having some sober Managers at the party to watch over things. Make sure that under-age employees are not plied with alcohol.
Encourage collective responsibility – for example make managers responsible for their teams. Remind your managers that they should intervene if anyone’s behaviour is going to cause upset or offence.
Home time - ensure that everyone can get home safely. This might mean reserving a local taxi service or arranging a minibus. Some companies arrange rooms at local hotels.
The day after -Make it clear beforehand what the ‘rules’ will be for those arriving at working with a hangover, late or not making it in at all. Consider providing recovery packages to help ensure that your staff come in well the next day.
Social media – be aware of the likelihood of pictures and videos from the party being posted on social media. Make sure your employees are aware of your social media policy.
Finally, as you have already told your employees that the party is an extension of the workplace; make sure that they know that any inappropriate behaviour at the work party will be dealt with the same way as if it had happened during work time.