For many, 'it's the most wonderful time of the year' and the work Christmas Party can be the highlight of the year. But on occasion, the work Christmas do can cause headaches for the HR team, and we're not just talking about the hangover.
This year MPs will be allowed to expense their spending on food, décor, and non alcoholic drinks for a festive celebration, The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority have recently announced.
Whilst the question of whether a cocoa in a constituency office should be expensed isn’t necessarily a question for employers to fret over, the annual work ‘Christmas Do’ can prove to be a bit of a headache. Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees during the celebrations.
The case of Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and others makes it clear that an organised work event will fall within the definition of the ‘course of employment’. So this is a gentle reminder for employers to consider the work Christmas party as an extension of the workplace, and should be aware of the potential for them to be responsible for any discrimination or sexual harassment by an employee.
Our top tips
- Remind employees of their behavioural obligations. An email round to attendees stating that the company harassment and disciplinary policies remain in force during the event will help everyone understand what is and isn’t acceptable;
- Remember that not everybody celebrates Christmas. All employees’ religious festivals and holidays should be accommodated, and people shouldn’t feel excluded due to their beliefs;
- If the party is held the night before a working day, make sure that employees are aware of what is expected of them in regards to absence following the event. All managers should be on the same page;
- Avoid an open bar! Yes, we all love an open bar but when it comes to the workplace, too much free-flowing alcohol is bound to cause issues;
- Try and make sure that the festivities are inclusive when it comes to employees who don’t drink alcohol or eat certain foods – catering for everyone will ensure nobody feels excluded;
- Avoid topics of promotion and remuneration whilst the drinks are flowing. Comments made by employers at social events on these topics have been held to be binding;
- Consider ordering taxis for staff following the event to ensure that they get home safely.