Jayne Hart

Member Article

How North East SMEs can have festive fun without the fallout at their Christmas party

• Thanks to 2020’s lockdowns, this will be the first Christmas party for two years for many businesses. • Christmas parties are a great way to thank staff and foster team spirit, but risks are attached. • Forethought and good communication can help everyone have fun without getting up to too much mischief.

It looks like the Christmas party is back after more than eighteen months of pandemic and lockdown. Will workforces around the country have a big night out in their sights, or will caution reign? Hopefully it will be somewhere in between, and with a bit of planning this is perfectly possible.

Jayne Hart from The HR Dept Newcastle highlights the risks to business owners of letting a work Christmas party run out of control, and the practical steps they can take to manage the risk whilst having fun.

Jayne begins: “Most of us are looking forward to a good Christmas party or two. While we all have fond memories of get-togethers from years past, we can also remember the people who take it too far!

“The person who starts sharing their REAL eyebrow-raising opinions; the one who makes unwanted advances; the employee who raises a grudge; and the person who slips head over heels on the dancefloor. It is often alcohol that is the common denominator.

“Unchecked, an excessive party could lead to staff absences, fallings out, disciplinary action and even physical harm. To make matters worse, the employer may be held vicariously liable for the actions of employees. Employers have even been held liable for goings-on after the main party’s finished. It depends on circumstances.

“A successful office Christmas party starts long before the fizz corks pop. I’m sure the party planners will have the entertainment covered, but what about the risks? They are managed by good communication which sets expectations beforehand and a risk assessment. Getting these right will not only reduce the chances of something untoward happening, but will also help defend a claim should one be made against you.

“Your risk assessment will be tailored to your event but should take into account the venue, any hotspots for slips and trips, as well as how people will get home safely. Once risks are identified, devise ways of controlling them. For getting home, these could include a reminder about drink driving or making sure the party ends before public transport stops.

“The invitation is a good opportunity to remind staff that the party is an extension of the workplace and that behaviour should be appropriate to a work setting. Make clear that while you want everyone to have a good time, excessive alcohol consumption is not advised and that your disciplinary and grievance policies still apply.

“There are a number of other HR-related matters to get right. If work’s on the next day, clarify that you expect staff to be present and productive unless you have authorised annual leave.

“And don’t forget equality law! The venue should be accessible, avoid clashes with other religious holidays, take dietary requirements into consideration and ensure that non-alcoholic beverages are available. Do you use agency staff, employ part-timers, or have anyone on maternity leave? Make sure everyone is invited and catered for.

“It is a case of a bit of planning goes a long way. It will set you up to enjoy a fun Christmas party without worrying about the risks.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jayne Hart .

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