How to make sure Christmas doesn’t turn into a HR nightmare

Christmas party season is almost upon us. In fact, I know of some that are taking place in the next week!

The sentiment behind work Christmas parties is a positive one – celebrating the end of a hard-working year with our work families, the people we see every day and spend the most time with. It’s also a great opportunity to thank your team and reward them with bonuses and gifts or even Employee of The Year-style awards.

When done properly, a Christmas party can be a real morale boost and see team members who never usually get chance to interact, get to know each other better.

But to do it properly, you need to take lots of factors into consideration.

  1. Activity – Just deciding what activity you will do can be a bit political! You have to pick something that suits as many people as possible without any form of discrimination. Think about the religious beliefs of others in your team and any disabilities. Can everyone enjoy what you are proposing? Are there food and drink alternatives for those who don’t drink alcohol, have food allergies or follow religious dietary restrictions?
  2. Location – Chances are your workforce, especially if you manage a large organisation, will not all live in the same town or village. Try and pick somewhere that is as central as possible and easy for everyone to get to. Also, despite most Christmas parties occurring out of the workplace, the responsibility still lies with the employer to keep their workers safe and minimise risk to them. Stress that NOBODY should drink and drive. If you can afford it, lay on transport for everyone. If you can’t, provide them with taxi numbers or details of bus routes and times.
  3. Time – If you decide to hold a party after hours, let employees know that they are not obliged to come. If your party falls on a work night, make it clear that anyone working the next day has to act responsibly and not go to work under the influence of alcohol and endanger their own or someone else’s health and safety.
  4. Reinforce policies – Now is the perfect time to remind employees about bullying and harassment policies and the consequences. Also consider a social media policy and circulate this prior to the Christmas party. For example, drunken photos that tag your company online would not be good for your reputation. Also, I have known some companies who give speeches at their Christmas party about top secret projects they have coming up in the New Year. You would not want any confidential company information being leaked in a video online before the time is right. And what about absence management? If someone wakes up hungover the next day, turns up late or decides they are too ill to work and need a ‘sick day’, how are you going to handle these matters as an employer?
  5. People management – If you know of any individuals who have a tendency to rub each other up the wrong way, you certainly don’t want to fuel this with a free bar! There isn’t an awful lot you can do about this but, for example, if you are having a sit-down meal, do what you can to subtly sit these people away from each other. If an incident does occur, such as a fight or unwelcome sexual advance, deal with these as you would if they had happened in the workplace and be consistent in your approach. You can’t be seen to favour one party over another. Remember employers can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory acts carried out by employees even if the event is held off site and out of normal working hours.
  6. Have fun! – Whilst you do need to consider all of the above, remember that a work Christmas party is all about celebrating the good work the team has achieved during the year.

If you are a business owner managing a team of people and feel a little overwhelmed with the HR side of things, I can help. See for details.