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Have Yourself A Merry Little, Stress-Free Christmas Party!

So, December is upon us once again and as we all concur about the year passing by in a flash, the festivities build.  December sees the start of Christmas party season within the workplace.  From office-based lunchtime functions, to post work beverages, to all expenses paid Christmas parties and everything in between; whichever category of celebration you fall into, it’s worth thinking about how to ensure your Christmas do runs smoothly.

Here are our top tips for ensuring your festive function is stress-free!

Pre-party preparation

And by preparation we don’t mean ensuring the food and beverages are fully stocked (although it’s perhaps a good place to start) … what we mean is thinking ahead about what, if anything, you want to communication to staff pre-party.  Think about who will be present.  Do you invite key clients, customers or suppliers?  Are staff allowed to bring their partners?  How long will the event last?  Will beverages be provided free of charge or only until a certain time?

We would always recommend communicating with staff prior to your event.  The above pre-party questions will help you consider the content of any such communication.  For example, if your event is for staff only and will be fairly low key, perhaps an email just wishing them an enjoyable time but reminding them of your policies (anti-harassment and bullying and social media spring to mind) will suffice.  

However, if your event is on a larger scale, particularly at a public venue, you may wish to remind staff that the party is an extension of work and they are expected to behave in a manner in-keeping with the Company’s ethos and image. Or, do you need to go even further?  If your event includes clients, customers or suppliers you may wish to stipulate that moderate alcohol may be consumed but staff are reminded that they are representing the Company.  Consider also briefing your managers to ensure they lead by example.

We’re really not trying to take the air out of your party balloons here, but a brief staff communication can avoid any post-party headaches for management. 

Take action for inappropriate behaviour

After the event, it’s always good to reflect on what worked well, what didn’t and if any issues arose that need to be addressed.  Don’t think inappropriate behaviour at Christmas parties cannot be acted upon.  Work related events are an extension of work and, as such, any behaviour which is inappropriate is actionable.

Unfortunately, as employment solicitors, we’ve heard a few sad stories about post-party regrets over the years.  Each year the top spot seems to go to either aggressive behaviour or harassment.  Whatever happens, do not dismiss any concerns that have been raised about someone’s conduct just because it happened at the Christmas party and they may have been intoxicated.

If someone raises a complaint, even informally, document it and investigate before deciding what action (if any) you wish to take in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.  For the most part, an informal discussion with the employee concerned will highlight the issue and will usually elicit an apology for any wrongdoing.  It will also pre-empt a repeat of such behaviour in years to come.  For a small number of more serious misdemeanours, disciplinary action will be warranted.

We sincerely hope your Christmas party is filled with festive fun and cheer.  However, if behaviour crosses the line, or you would like advice on that carefully worded pre-party communication, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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