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The Work Xmas Party

The Office Christmas PartyChristmas work parties are often remembered for all the wrong reasons... drunk and disorderly behaviour, alcohol-fuelled violence and sometimes even sexual harassment.

In a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 1 in 10 workers reported they know of someone from their company who has either been disciplined or dismissed for inappropriate behaviour at their Christmas do.

Of these, almost a third said that the reason for action was fighting, and one fifth said that threatening behaviour was to blame. The next most commonly reported reasons were sexual harassment (17%), bullying (12%), and other forms of discrimination (8%).

UK legislation is clear: your office party is an extension of your normal work environment. This means that the company may still be liable for potential claims even if the party took place at a separate venue and outside working hours.

Whilst no one wants to be seen as a ‘party pooper’, it is important that employers are not deemed to be encouraging or condoning inappropriate conduct.

We’ve put together a quick guide to help you pre-empt any claims, and to make this Christmas party a night to remember – but for all the right reasons of course.

Make travel arrangements

One of your employees has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party and is planning to drive home. Is it your responsibility? In fact, it is. As an employer, you have a ‘duty of care’ toward your employees, and as it’s the company’s party, you need to take some responsibility. We suggest trying the following:

  • End the party before public transport stops running.
  • Provide phone numbers for local registered cab companies and encourage employees to use them.
  • Hire minibuses to take staff home.

Pre-empt sickness absence

If you’re worried about people failing to turn up for work the next day, due to hangovers, there are a few measures you can take to pre-empt this, including:

  • Provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food.
  • Before the party, make sure all staff understand that disciplinary action could be taken if they do not turn up for work and there is reason to believe it is due to over-indulgence.

Avoid discrimination

Throwing a party that caters for everyone’s needs can feel impossible – no two people are the same after all. But, with some careful planning, there are some things that you can do to ensure that no-one feels left out, or worse yet, discriminated against. Try some of our following suggestions:

  • Providing a varied mix of music and entertainment to account for all ages.
  • If you extend invitations to partners, don’t assume that everyone is in a heterosexual relationship.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of soft drinks to cater for employees who do not drink alcohol – for personal or religious reasons.
  • Employees that hold certain religious beliefs may be vegetarian or unable to eat certain foods, for example... pork or beef. Therefore, make sure that you ask all employees about dietary requirements so that these can be met accordingly.

Draw up a suitable work-related social events policy

People should feel able to relax and let their hair down. However, it is a good idea for employers to remind their staff that inappropriate behaviour could land them in serious trouble, and even lead to them losing their job in the case of serious misconduct. Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the CIPD

It’s important that you provide clear written guidance to your workplace about the acceptable standards of behaviour at the office party, and the disciplinary actions that could result if any rules are breached. Examples of unacceptable behaviour might include excessive alcohol consumption, fighting and use of inappropriate language or physical contact.

Remember, what you end up with may not be to everyone's taste, but you can always learn from it for next years’ event.

Connection wishes everyone a festive and fun Christmas party!

  • 1st November 2010
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