For the employees of the world, the Christmas do is an opportunity to let their hair down, relax with people they work with, and enjoy the festive period. For employers though, it can lead to an unexpected hangover.
Free alcohol and a casual atmosphere with colleagues can be good for morale and team building if managed properly, but it only takes one inappropriate comment, gesture or ‘dance move’ to invite those killjoys known as ‘gross misconduct’ and ‘disciplinary action’ to the party.
The Charted Institute of Personnel and Development found that 10% of workers know a colleague who has either been disciplined or dismissed for inappropriate behaviour at the office Christmas party.
What’s important to understand from a point of view of protecting yourself and your business, is that office parties, even those held outside office hours and not on your premises, are still considered ‘work’.
These events are deemed part of working life and employees are often expected to attend. This means that the employer’s responsibilities to its staff don’t change. For example, in sexual harassment cases and complaints about employee behaviour at parties, courts still hold the employer liable.
This fact has many companies shying away from holding their annual Christmas knees up, despite their benefits to the wellbeing of your staff and the inter-office team building they encourage. The fear that they could end up costing the company a fortune in legal bills has many business leaders throwing these benefits away.
There is a way around that though.
To do this, you simply need to plan well:
- Remind everyone that the company rules apply at the party, as well as in the office, to avoid any inappropriate and easily misinterpreted inter-office liaisons.
- Have a dress code – Even if it is just ‘Christmas jumpers!’
- Use drinks tokens to control your employee’s intake. People are less likely to continue drinking if they suddenly find themselves spending their own money.
- Make sure everyone has a safe way home – taxis or a minibus would be ideal, or failing that simply making sure everyone can get home after. Finishing before public transport stops for the night is usually a good aim.
- Finally, make sure your Employers’ Liability Insurance (to cover your staff’s welfare) and your Directors & Officers Insurance (to cover your managers’ liability) are up to date.
Give us a call if you’re unsure about your protection, as we can give you sound advice that costs you nothing, and could end up saving you a fortune.
Whatever your plans this Christmas, make sure your business is protected so you can enjoy the holidays in peace!