Don’t let the Christmas party turn sour, companies are warned

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Christmas party
Lynn Bradley

Employers should set staff rules for Christmas parties as the festive season approaches.

That’s the advice from Huddersfield-based HR consultants Pennine Business Partners, whose expert Lynn Bradley is advising employers to send out a clear statement to their staff outlining the consequences of inappropriate behaviour at the office Christmas party.

She said: “Christmas parties are great for morale, and bring everyone together to celebrate the year, but they can provide problems too. We don’t want to play the role of Scrooge, but it’s important for employers to remind staff of HR policies and to make them aware that they are still expected to act professionally.

“Employers should encourage responsible drinking by limiting the amount of free alcohol available, instruct bar staff to refuse alcohol where appropriate, and remind staff of the dangers of drinking and driving.”

Tribunals can view the office party as an extension of the normal work environment which means employers can be held accountable for the behaviour of staff.

Lynn said: “Whether in the workplace or at a party inappropriate behaviour such as insulting comments, fighting or sexual harassment can result in disciplinary action which would certainly spoil the festivities.

“Although staff are responsible for their own actions, employers have an obligation to provide a safe environment. If they haven’t taken reasonable steps to prevent inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour, they could be liable for the actions of their staff outside the workplace.

“Attending the office party shouldn’t be compulsory, and no-one should be discriminated against for not going. This should be made clear by the employer. Employers should also watch their own behaviour, for example, not discuss promotions or salary increases at the party. We’re not trying to be ‘bah humbug’, but when people drink too much you never know what they might say.”