With 2023 fast approaching and Christmas just around the corner, lots of businesses are thinking about their workplace Christmas party. With this year being the first for a while without COVID-19 restrictions many organisations are looking forward to coming together to celebrate and reward their team after what is being described as a year of unique challenges. The demand for work Christmas parties has skyrocketed, with bars and pubs reporting a 168% rise in bookings compared to this time last year.
While the Christmas party is the perfect opportunity to thank employees for their hard work and diligence, it can also potentially be fraught with incidents and dramas that could turn into an HR headache.
In fact, a study from Thortful revealed that 35% of Brits have regretted their actions at their past work Christmas parties with ‘getting too friendly with a colleague’, one of the biggest embarrassing moments. Despite the regret and embarrassing moments over half, 54%, of the British workforce ‘love’ the work Christmas party – a chance for employees to unwind with colleagues outside of the workplace. So, we’ve put together some key points for employers to consider as they prepare for the celebrations ahead.
It can be difficult to plan a Christmas party that appeals to everyone’s interests, or to find a good venue in a location that works for everyone especially with a limited budget and availability. In spite of this, it’s important to extend the invitation to all members of staff to avoid any suggestion of discrimination. This covers homeworkers, those on maternity/paternity leave, and those on sick leave, depending on the severity of the sickness.
While you should invite everyone, don’t make them feel obligated to come. Christmas parties can cause anxiety among some employees, especially if they are new to the organisation. Keep in mind that if the celebration is held outside of business hours, some employees may have childcare or other responsibilities, and those who do not celebrate the holiday may feel uncomfortable attending.
Consider how you can better accommodate people
It’s easy to forget that not everyone celebrates Christmas, drinks alcohol, or is able to stay out late when you’re preoccupied with planning a fully festive event with all the trimmings. Consider methods to celebrate that can be more inclusive, allowing more people to come and have a good time. Simple changes like moving an evening event to a lunchtime meal, offering plenty of alcohol-free and dietary options, or framing the party as an end-of-year celebration (less loaded with tinsel) may better suit everyone and prevent anyone from feeling excluded.
Make your position clear
It’s a good idea to send out a memo in advance of your celebrations to the entire workforce regarding employee behaviour at work events if you don’t have a specific policy in place.
Your Christmas Party memo should:
- establish clear expectations for staff
- explicitly state that disciplinary action will be taken in cases of misconduct
- remind employees of other relevant policies such as, social media, bullying and harassment
Keep a firm grasp on potential disciplinary situations
Christmas festivities can often be the spark for Employment tribunal claims. The lines between people’s personal and work life frequently blur when the drinks are flowing, which can lead to arguments, sexist statements, risqué jokes, and unwanted sexual advances.
Remind staff in advance of what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour and how misconduct will be handled. During the event, keep an eye out for any potential disciplinary problems to prevent them from occurring.
It’s best not to discipline staff during the actual event. Send them home if necessary, and when you return to work, take immediate appropriate action. The office Christmas party is a time for celebration and not regrets. Reminding employees of this and putting in place measures ahead of the event means everyone can enjoy themselves without the risk of any repercussions.
If you would like advice on employee relations or a work events policy please contact hr inspire’s expert HR team – Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy which can bring your business the benefits, protection and experience of an entire HR department.