Christmas parties are a great opportunity for staff to relax and socialise together ahead of the festive season, as well as a chance to show you appreciate their hard work over the year. As it is a work event, however, employers do need to be mindful of the responsibilities they have towards staff. Employees should also be reminded that their behaviour should comply with normal standards.
Some of the most important steps an employer should take are:
- Carry out a risk assessment for the event. This should take account of the venue and, in particular, the risks associated with alcohol consumption. A recent TUC survey revealed that two in five workers who have been to a Christmas party have got drunk. Ensure soft drinks are provided as well;
- Make sure that employees can get home safely – consider providing taxis or hiring transport if necessary;
- Take into account the needs of employees of different faiths, wherever possible;
- Ensure staff understand the difference between 'banter' and behaviour that could be considered humiliating or degrading to co-workers. Remind employees that workplace equal treatment and anti-harassment policies apply to the event. If such behaviour occurs, take quick action to prevent it re-occurring or escalating. Act promptly if a complaint is received;
- If employees are expected to work the day after the event, make sure they know that absence due to over-indulgence, or turning up to work hungover, are likely to be regarded as disciplinary matters; and
- Ensure employees know any illegal acts will not be tolerated.
Your policies and your contracts of employment will probably deal with these issues, but it is advisable to have a specific policy on work social events, and to remind employees to be aware of it.