Workplace Christmas parties: five key ways to ensure they go with a fizz and don’t end with a grievance.      

Nov 28, 2019 | Employee Socialising, Policies

It’s that time of year.  Christmas parties are at the top of the agenda for most companies.  As we all know, Christmas parties can be great fun and excellent for staff morale.  But how do you make sure that your Christmas parties are remembered for the right reasons?  And what should you do if things go wrong?

Here’s a few tips for helping things to go smoothly.

Tip 1: Develop a works related social events policy

We agree: even the word ‘policy’ sounds like a festive joy hoover.  However, this is one thing you really need to get sorted, especially in the #metoo era.  Your social events policy should set out expectations for moderate drinking at work events, a reminder that staff should not behave in a way which brings the company into disrepute, and, critically, that they should not behave in a way which upsets, intimidates or embarrasses others.  You want the festive season to be enjoyable for all.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, as an employer you are vicariously liable for the actions of your employees, and you do not want a harassment case on your hands.  The policy should make clear that disciplinary action may result if the policy is breached.

Tip 2: Make sure all staff are aware of the policy

Some people may think this removes all the fun from the event.  Or they may be embarrassed having to outline behavioural expectations in such a way.  We’re sure you’d agree that it is far less fun and much more embarrassing to deal with allegations of harassment and disciplinary action after the event; it is therefore best to be clear up-front.  Blame it on HR if it makes you feel better!  Remember also that having clear expectations in place may encourage quieter staff members to join rather than avoid the party, making for a more inclusive atmosphere.

Tip 3: Ensure managers understand the need for them to role model good behaviour (and definitely not bad)

A significant number of the festive misconduct cases we’ve dealt with unfortunately related to the behaviour of managers.  When a manager steps out of line at a Christmas party,  other staff can be put in the uncomfortable position of feeling they cannot complain, or worse may need to join in.  Managers should be clearly told about the need for them to model good behaviour during the Christmas party season, so that all staff members feel comfortable.

Tip 4: Include #metoo training in your workplace training programme

Times are changing, and behaviour which was once tolerated at festive work parties is (quite rightly) no longer acceptable.  However, many staff members (particularly those who started their careers in a different era) are uncertain of what is expected from them, and would really benefit from training around what is and is not acceptable workplace behaviour.  We offer training in equality, diversity and acceptable behaviour in the workplace in this post-#metoo era.

Tip 5: Deal with any problems swiftly and fairly after the event using your policies and procedures

Unfortunately problems do happen and when they do the way that you, as the employer, deals with them is really important both legally and in maintaining good team relations going forward.  Remember to stick to your policies (which should always follow the ACAS Code and Guide for Disciplinary and Grievance).

We can help through all three steps above.  We can draft suitable policies, including work related social events, disciplinary and grievance policies.  We can provide training in managing disciplinaries and grievances.  And we can step in to investigate any allegations thoroughly, ensuring that the investigation is impartial, and saving management time.  Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can help.