Tis the season to be jolly … and to sort the staff Christmas party!
In this blog we’ll look at the employment law issues surrounding Party Planning.
The staff Christmas party is a great way to boost morale. It is considered as “the party of the year” and employees look forward to it all year round and continue to talk about it long after the festivities have ended.
However employer’s must be reminded that whether a staff Christmas party takes place within working hours or out of hours, in the office or away from the office, the party will be considered as an extension of the normal working environment and therefore I have set out some tips for you below.
As a matter of good practice, Christmas party invitations should go out to every employee. This will include those employees on sickness absence (within reason) or maternity/paternity leave to prevent any complaints of discrimination. Additionally if you are allowing employees to bring their partners the invitation should welcome all partners. You should be mindful that not all partners are of the opposite sex and therefore should not discriminate on the ground of sexual orientation.
Additionally employers should not insist that all employees attend the Christmas party. This is because some employees may have other responsibilities and commitments for example child care or may not celebrate Christmas because of their religion.
Planning the perfect venue for the staff Christmas party is a task in itself and from experience the hunt to find a suitable venue starts as early as summer!
The principle aim of the party is to enable all employees to attend and enjoy the occasion. With this in mind the employer should choose a venue based in a suitable location, ensure it is accessible for individuals with a disability and is appropriate for all ages. You must also avoid selecting a venue that might offend individuals of a particular sex or religion to prevent claims for discrimination.
The Christmas party always creates a lot of laughs, usually fuelled by hired entertainment. If you do provide entertainment then it is your duty to protect the employees from unwanted conduct, for example offensive behaviour or jokes, as this could result in harassment claims. Therefore be mindful to brief your entertainers and hosts on what is and is not acceptable prior to the event to ensure that their material is suitable.
Food and drink
The most important part of party planning is ensuring there will be lots of delicious food and plentiful drink! However employers should remember that some employees cannot eat certain foods because of their religious beliefs or special dietary requirements. Therefore you should ensure a suitable alternative meal can be provided.
Although alcohol consumption peaks at this time of year, not all employees, for whatever reason, will drink alcohol and therefore the employer should ensure plenty of water and soft-drinks are available too.
We know there is “always one” individual that will be the talk of the Christmas party, usually due to their drink-fuelled behaviour. These antics are usually brushed off but unfortunately there are instances where this type of behaviour can lead to an employment tribunal claim. Therefore before the party date arrives employers should set clear guidelines to ensure all members of staff are reminded about the Company’s expectations and what behaviour will not be tolerate for example, excessive alcohol consumption, drug taking, fighting and other unwanted conduct or discriminatory behaviour. No one want’s to be Bah Humbug so maybe a gentle reminder of the relevant procedures and policies in place.
Next week I will be looking at the Christmas Party and providing you with some tips to ensure the night is a great success.