Allison Grant, partner for Lester Aldridge, offers her advice to employers about the do’s and don’ts of the infamous office Christmas party.

The Christmas Party season has arrived! Employees and employers alike rejoice! But, as employers, what do you need to think about?

So what do we do before the Christmas Party?

  • Circulate an email or memo. Remind staff what is and isn’t acceptable and of the potential disciplinary sanctions (even though outside of work hours, acceptable behaviour is still required). Consider including a warning about excessive alcohol consumption and failure to attend work for reasons related to a hangover.
  • Check your anti bullying and harassment and equal opportunities policies are up to date (if you don’t have these policies – get them quickly or you will have no defence to a claim for harassment or discrimination). Remind employees of these policies and sanctions for non compliance.

Think about the timing and content of the evening!

  • If you have your party on a weekday evening, you may find that the following day may not be as productive and a suspiciously high number of staff may call in sick.
  • Think about having the party at the weekends but consider that Fridays may exclude Jewish employees.
  • What about raffles or casino nights? Think about different religions and what the odds are that gambling is likely to offend. Also, think about your prizes – are alcohol or certain foods a bad idea (Spam in a tin or cheap smellies are always a bad idea!)?
  • Think Lapland not lap dancers in terms of entertainment (need we say any more?).
  • Appoint supervisors! Nominate responsible (and sober) members of staff (if any) to oversee events (and pick people you can trust not to blackmail employees after the event). Explain what these supervisors should do with overtly drunk employees (this usually involves a taxi and a deposit to the taxi driver!).
  • How will your employees get home? Consider hiring minibuses or ensure the supervisors have numbers for registered taxi firms.

Silent night – not likely!

So you have managed to get your event organised, your staff have been warned and the night has arrived. What now?

  • Make sure there is plenty of food to soak up the alcohol. Limit the free alcohol and provide lots of non alcoholic drinks. Ensure jugs of tap water are readily available.
  • Consider different religions, particularly providing a veggie option to cover Halal and Kosher requirements.
  • Make sure your supervisors stay sober.
  • Mistletoe and wine? Scrap the mistletoe (let’s not encourage sexual harassment – consensual or not).

Top Tips for Management

  • As much as the nation loved John Sergeant, don’t try to replicate his smooth moves on the dance floor. Trust us – it won’t look good!
  • Think about conversations to avoid after you have had a few. Don’t talk about religion, pay rises, bonuses, career prospects or future plans of your staff to reproduce! An absolute no-no is to inform your employees that sexual attention may assist career progression (even if it seems like a good idea at the time!)

Finally, do attend- Christmas parties can be fun and a good opportunity to bond with your staff!