3 Top Tips for HR and employers: avoid being ‘Scrooged’ at the Christmas party

Christmas is a time to celebrate, taking stock of the year that’s passed and enjoying festive fun with colleagues at the annual office party.

Not wanting to be a Grinch and start tearing down Christmas trees, employers should still be alert to the potential for festive fun in the present to turn into a HR headache of the future.

Here are 3 top tips to help you avoid this situation:

1. Get the party started!

Before the party, make it clear to staff what your expectations are as the employer. Remind them to act responsibly in the company of their colleagues.

Advise them that business’s policies apply. This includes anti-harassment and bullying, disciplinary and grievance matters, and also that social media and technology policies apply.

Set out a clear itinerary of the day:

  • when the party will start and finish
  • where it will be held
  • for day time/office hours parties, include whether there are any strict requirements for staff to attend or otherwise take annual leave

Encourage staff to arrange safe transport home afterwards. Remind them that any events / drinks held elsewhere or after the festive party, are not associated with the business and it is their own decision to continue with this activity.

Everyone in the business hopes to let their hair down. Make sure that managers and senior staff are alert to potential HR issues which may arise. They are to lead the way by setting standards for appropriate behaviour; avoiding the temptation to buy drinks for staff or encouraging excessive alcohol consumption.

2. Don’t be a party pooper…

As the alcohol flows and the mood relaxes, inevitably some staff will get carried away and HR issues may come to a head.

Avoid tackling issues on the day/night of the party. Immediate and sudden reactions to potential misconduct issues can be heightened by emotionally charged situations and reduced inhibitions following alcohol consumption. If an employee’s conduct is severe, consider sending them home and deal with matter once everyone is back in the office.


3. After the festive fun is over

If you do have any concerns at the party or once everyone is back in the office ensure you, as the employer, take all matters seriously.

Bullying, harassment, violence and other forms of misconduct which may crop up at festive events are serious matters. They should be dealt with formally using the right channels and internal policies.

If you are faced with any concerns following the festive period, consider taking legal advice.

Your legal position

Liability for the conduct of your employees has the potential to extend beyond the office door and business trading hours. Employers are ‘vicariously liable’ for employee actions outside work and/or beyond normal working hours (if seen to have taken place in the course of employment). So, employers could be liable for claims from their employees for events which have happened during events like a Christmas party, including harassment or discrimination by another.

Liability will depend on the facts. For example, was the employee acting in the course of employment (or not)? Our advice is for employers to be informed and stay vigilant, curbing drunk and disorderly behaviour, harassment and bullying.

If you do find yourself in this situation and would like business advice, contact us for a free initial consultation. Or for more information, visit our employment law page.