Senior HR Consultant, Louise Angell discusses the importance of HR during the festive period and offers advice on how to prevent a grievance arising from the work Christmas party.
Did you know that even if your work Christmas party is away from the office it may be viewed as an extension of the workplace? This means events of the evening will be considered to be ‘in the course of employment’. Due to this, the employer can be held vicariously liable.
There can be many positives stemming from work socials such as team bonding and enhanced professional relationships. However, Christmas parties can quickly escalate from festive fun to a harassment or discrimination claim once the wrapping paper is in the bin and the hangovers are cured.
It can be difficult to lay out expectations to employees without being labelled ‘the grinch’. However employers need to be aware and take action to prevent any such unwanted claims. No one wants to return to claims of harassment or discrimination, unhappy and distressed employees, and least of all absence due to an unsavory event that took place under the mistletoe!
Set out your expectations before the event. Do this at the place of work well before the event so as not to ‘put a dampener’ on the night.
Nominate a ‘sober champion’ (preferably a manager). This is someone who can observe the festive fun and put a stop to any potential misbehaviour. They need to be able to deal with any situation promptly and effectively preventing escalation.
The ‘sober Champion’ can also encourage the inclusion of everyone. Remember not everyone drinks and often alcohol can be a focal point. This can sometimes lead to employees encouraging… ahem… bullying their colleagues into having a drink, i.e., ‘just one more’, ‘one for the road’… Remember some people chose not to drink due to religion, health, or disability reasons, all of which are protected characteristics. If they are made to feel humiliated, have their dignity violated, or receive degrading comments they can raise a harassment grievance. All it takes is an over-festive employee, full of Christmas spirit (with no malice or ill intent) to tease, mock and create ‘banter’ and cause offence. We have all seen this or even been the victim ourselves of such ‘banter’.
Remind employees that any misconduct may result in disciplinary action or potentially dismissal depending on the severity of the conduct. It is better to ‘prevent’ than find you and your employees caught up in an awful grievance. Attempting to resolve afterwards means a slim chance of the employees’ relationship ever being the same again or at worse attrition because of it.
There are lots of benefits to holding a company event such as team building, improved working relationships and camaraderie. These can complement any business well into the new year and beyond. Don’t shy away from the team event. Instead, just take the precautionary steps to protect your employees, the reputation of your business, and future success.
If you require support and guidance with managing your work Christmas party or dealing with the aftermath of one, please contact the HPC team.
T: 0330 107 1037