Christmas is coming

December 7, 2015 2:48 pm Published by

Christmas is coming……and as memories of the recession fade and employers may have a bit more cash to spare, venues are reporting a high level of bookings for Christmas parties.  Hopefully a jolly time will be had by all, but the toxic mix of festivity and freedom gives rise to some predictable hazards.

A party organized by the employer is a work-related matter and the employer carries a high level of responsibility if things go wrong.  Problems are foreseeable, especially if inhibitions are reduced by alcohol provided by the employer.  So where do the boundaries fall between having a really good time together and behavior that falls outside what should be accepted?

Mistletoe has a lot to answer for.  Often misbehavior is linked to discrimination – male/female, sexual orientation or whatever.  One person’s good time can be someone else’s harassment.  If bad behavior happens, the defence an employer needs is to show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent it in the first place and afterwards dealt properly with complaints.

So at the risk of being a party pooper, an employer should lightly flag up to staff that reasonable boundaries of courtesy and consideration do remain and all are expected to keep within them.  Behavior towards colleagues should be in accordance with normal standards, policies and company rules, so that everyone can have a really good time.  This includes in respect of social media and the Christmas party should not be a photo opportunity taken to humiliate or publicise bad behavior.  Suggest to staff that they should not post comments or photos until at least the day afterwards and then only if they consider that they will reflect well on the organization and the individuals shown.

Health and safety is another consideration, because the event is associated with work.  It is foreseeable that some should not be driving home, and it may be late and dark, so make arrangements for lifts or taxis at the end.  Reinforce the message that drinking should be kept to responsible limits and consider limiting the amount of free alcohol laid on.  A (noble) manager should be designated to stay sober and keep an eye out for any trouble or anyone who needs help.  If there is a complaint, make sure it is dealt with seriously and discreetly, then carefully reviewed in the cold light of the next day.

Otherwise, enjoy the party and the well-earned chance to relax together, and make sure you can look forward to a very Happy Christmas.

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This post was written by Frances