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The Office Christmas Party – how to survive it.

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THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

With the Christmas party approaching, there’s an excellent opportunity to bond and reward staff.  It’s a chance to celebrate success and for managers to be more visible and approachable, but it is important to consider the possible pitfalls.  Whilst common sense must prevail, it is important to understand that any Christmas party organised for work colleagues whether during or after office hours, on or off the premises, is technically a work activity and therefore normal disciplinary procedures will apply if behaviour gets out of hand. 

Research suggests:

  • 1 in 2 parties end up with colleagues fighting
  • 1 in 3 with incidents of sexual harassment
  • 1 in 5 with accidents involving employees
  • 3 out of 4 bosses said that a member of staff had threatened to take a case to an employment tribunal following bad behaviour at a Christmas party.
  • 1 in 3 people say they have had drunken sex at their office party
  • 64% said this was just a one night wonder that was awkward at work afterwards
  • Over half have passionately kissed the boss or a colleague at the party

Bearing all this in mind it may be worthwhile to consider issuing guidelines to make sure that everyone knows what is unacceptable.  Having said this, two thirds of employers don’t do this.

Health and Safety

The TUC and the RoSPA have joined forces to produce an ‘Office Party Planner’ Christmas Safety Guide http://www.worksmart.org.uk/officeparty/officepartyplanner.pdf

  • Consider a risk assessment of the venue, and consider the safety of people travelling home afterwards.
  • Try not to poison your staff.  If you’re having a buffet in the office, remember to refrigerate your food.    

Drinking

  • If you are supplying alcohol consider limiting the amount.  You may be deemed legally responsible for the welfare of the employee if they suffer from a drink related incident even if is outside the party.  Ensure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options and enough food to minimise the effects.
  • An employer is responsible for their employees’ actions after consuming alcohol provided by the company.  Consider advising staff on the dangers of drink driving including the following morning.  You should look at ending the party before public transport stops, providing telephone numbers of taxi firms or even laying on a minibus to reduce liability.
  • Avoid discussing work related issues at the party, particularly after drinking.  You may end up promising something you cannot deliver.

Tax Allowance

A Christmas party can be one of the most tax efficient ways of rewarding staff with £150 tax allowance per head and no NI contributions.  Make sure you consider the liability if you exceed this or provide some other form of recognition.

Sexual Harassment / Discrimination

  • Secret Santa – you may consider defining what an acceptable gift is.  Amusing gifts such as condoms may provide grounds for claims for sexual harassment or race discrimination
  • Ensure you cater for those who don’t drink, have special dietary needs or religious beliefs.  Talk to any speakers or entertainment to make sure their material is not going to cause offense.
  • If the invitation extends to husbands and wives, ensure that this is extended to partners of the opposite and same sex to avoid potential sexual orientation discrimination claims.
  • Consider doing away with the mistletoe.  Drink and lowered inhibitions leading to a brief encounter under the mistletoe is very likely to result in embarrassment the next day.

Fighting

Lowered inhibitions are likely with alcohol consumption.  Long term disagreements and gripes can come to the fore.  Make sure staff are aware or the repercussions of fighting at the Christmas do.

Finally think about the effect on work.  If possible plan your party for a day when people are not expected at work the following day.  If people are expected to attend work the following day be prepared for a lower output and be consistent in how you handle those who turn up for work the worse the wear for drink, and consider if in doing so they are putting themselves or others at risk.

It’s all about having a good time while ensuring you have limited your liability as an employer, so with good planning and careful consideration, we wish you a very happy festive season.

 

 

 

 

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