Employment Issues In The Festive Season

The festive season can throw up difficulties in relation to managing employees.

The office Christmas party, whether it takes place in or outside of office hours, is considered to be an extension of the working environment and as such can present problems.  If you are organising an office Christmas party here are our “top” festive tips:

  • Make sure events are inclusive – don’t forget those who are off work, for example on maternity or paternity leave. Not only will this protect you from a legal perspective, but it’s always nice to be invited!
  • Choose your venue carefully and make sure it doesn’t have the scope to offend anyone
  • Think about the date of the Christmas party and any possible impact on productivity or health and safety
  • Make sure any entertainment won’t cause any offence
  • Although it may seem to put a dampener on the Christmas spirit, it is worth reminding employees of the standards of behaviour which are expected prior to any event and that the normal policies and procedures continue to apply, particularly the disciplinary policy and equal opportunities and harassment policies
  • Discourage the use of social media – material which could be damaging to the Company’s reputation can find its way on to the internet very easily
  • Avoid discussions on work related matters, for example promotion prospects, which could be taken out of context or misunderstood. Stick to using the appraisal process to deal with discussions about career prospects
  • Consider limiting free alcoholic drinks

Potential disciplinary issues can seem to multiply at this time of year.  We recommend that any issues are dealt with in a timely way and in accordance with your normal policies and procedures.  Making exceptions for behaviours you would not accept in other contexts may lead to problems further down the line.  

The time of year can lead to a rise in short term absenteeism with employees perhaps attending more social events that they would ordinarily. Whilst employers may wish to take a fairly relaxed approach about attendance the morning after the Christmas party and allow employees some leeway, it should be stressed that policies regarding sickness absence and lateness do continue to apply.  If you have staff who are operating machinery or driving as part of their job you should take steps to ensure that no health and safety issues are raised as a result of overindulgence the night before.  The timing of any Christmas party should be thought about carefully.

If you need any assistance in relation to managing employment related issues as a result of your Christmas party or for any other reason during the festive season, please contact a member of the Employment team.