Bah the HR Humbug!

Posted: 22nd November 2017

Bah the HR Humbug!

As we approach the festive season, you will probably find stories doing the rounds on social media about those strict people in HR who will not let people enjoy themselves at the work Christmas party. It is a bit like the apocryphal “Health and Safety” stories about games such as conkers being banned at school.

No, I do not want to ban Christmas parties, but I do want employers to ensure that they think carefully to make sure that employees are not excluded in any way, if they wish to join the celebrations. With the recent revelations in the media about various individuals who are alleged to have harassed or assaulted colleagues it is even more important to get it right and avoid your business being implicated as the result of any complaints.

The way to prevent issues is to think in advance to minimise the risk of your festivities turning into something memorable for the wrong reasons. Make sure that your plans will not offend or exclude any groups of employees by the nature of your Christmas party.

For example, make sure that you cater for people who don’t drink alcohol or for those with food allergies and do not arrange entertainment that might offend some of your employees – or be counter to your dignity at work policy. It is a good idea to restrict the amount of alcohol being provided by the business to limit your liability for employees’ actions (I once had to dismiss an employee who had become “overly-amorous” with the serving staff brought in by the caterers for the works Christmas lunch after he had drunk two bottles of wine provided by the employer!). You should also make sure that it is made clear to employees that they must not drive home if they are over the limit – perhaps by arranging taxis or a bus for them. And certainly don’t arrange it for an evening where they have to report to work early the next day as they may still be over the limit!

But if you do receive allegations of harassment or any other misconduct during the festivities, make sure you deal with them promptly and appropriately. If you need assistance with any of this; either prevention measures or “post-party” issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch.