The office Christmas party is a great way to boost morale by rewarding staff and giving everyone a chance to bond. We’ve been asked if we have any tips around workplace considerations during this period to help everything run smoothly.
Hollywood has had its fair share of festive films that involve Christmas Parties, the most recent being titled simply as ‘Office Christmas Party’ where all manner of inappropriate activities ensue such as widespread drug abuse, explosions that damage office property, extreme stunts, sexual harassment, offensive behaviour, police arrests and the boss surveying the ruins of a once functioning office the next morning.
The film may glamorise or trivialise the event but ultimately our message is that the office Christmas party should be an enjoyable and harmless occasion for both the business/organisation and for all workers.
The important thing to remember is that the Christmas period is no different to any other time of the year when it comes employment law. The law can still apply even if a work social event or party takes place outside of the workplace so if there are any alleged incidents of sexual harassment or assault then the employer can still be liable.
Unfortunately, drink-fuelled behaviour is the root cause of many tribunal claims each year, and without risking being seen as party-poopers, employers should consider reminding staff of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour at staff social events - as well as highlighting the likely consequences of such behaviour.
Many companies have alcohol and drug policies that apply to work. If staff feel that they may still be under the influence when they are due at work the day after the party it would be wise for them to request the following day as annual leave or make use of a flexible working policy to make up the time lost. Basically, our advice here is no different to situations where staff may want to watch a sporting event like a football match, the night before. Requests should be made early as managers have the right to refuse requests if it affects their team’s ability to meet business needs.
It would be a good idea to be as inclusive as possible to accommodate staff from a range of backgrounds so that they can all enjoy the event. Whilst most staff may enjoy a good party, they may not relish the whole event revolving around alcohol if they cannot drink e.g. pregnant staff or staff that don’t drink due to faith, cultural or other reasons. So providing non-alcoholic options and having a wide range of snacks or foods for staff that don't eat certain foods would be sensible. Another possible consideration may be to brief or screen any outside speaker or entertainer in advance to ensure that their material is suitable and won't give offence.
Ultimately, we want staff to enjoy the festive spirit of Christmas and we believe the above advice is just common sense. We would NOT advise parties akin to the scenes from the film Wolf of Wall Street! People can enjoy the traditional Christmas party in a harmless way...
It is also perfectly acceptable if staff do not want to attend a Christmas Party. At Acas, we have staff teams that decide to have a choice of Christmas events which can range from a night-time special Christmas quiz to a Christmas team lunch. The team lunch works well for those staff members that may have caring commitments or commute a lengthy distance into work.
For more information, please visit www.acas.org.uk