December 11, 2015

Only at Christmas! Avoiding HR disasters at the office party

From emotional outbursts at company Directors to stripping off in front of colleagues, employees have done it all at their office Christmas parties.

The details may be hazy, but such incidents can have a devastating impact on employers over the festive period, including formal warnings, disciplinary investigations and even dismissals.

With the worst behaviours at work Christmas parties including drunk and disorderly behaviour, verbal abuse, drugs, sexual harassment and injuries, we don’t want your business to get disrupted. Here’s our top tips to enjoying your Christmas party.

How to ensure you are fully prepared

When you are planning your party, you’ll need to take some preventative measures to ensure everything runs smoothly…

  • Remind employees in advance of the relevant policies and explain the impact of any misconduct at the Xmas party.
  •  Encourage collective responsibility, i.e. making employees or perhaps managers responsible for colleagues (particularly in relation to alcohol  consumption and behaviour).
  • Consider the supply of free alcohol as alcohol related issues are consistently cited as the main factor in any Christmas related HR issue at work.
  • Send a reminder to employees in advance, including any relevant policies.  Explain the impact of any misconduct may lead to formal disciplinary action and any expectations as to behaviour.
  • Consider having some sober managers present at the party to keep an eye on things.
  • Prohibit work vehicles being taken to functions unless the driver is a dedicated sober driver and arrange for transport home or accommodation.

What should I do if there is an incident?

If you are unluckily enough to experience a serious incident at your Christmas party, it is important you are prepared. Make sure you get professional advice in advance first – the Moorepay advice line is always on hand to help.

However, as a rough guide, you will need to suspend all parties you feel could have committed gross misconduct on full pay. Then:

  • Investigate everything impartially, taking a balanced and consistent view
  • Follow the Acas guide
  • Perform internal disciplinary hearings conducted by a more senior manager not involved in the incident.

Making it success

Finally, don’t kill the fun – remind employees it is fun, a celebration, and that  employees who do not adhere to the policy or code of conduct on behaviour spoil the party for everyone.

Christmas parties can be successful events and a great way to boost employee morale. However, if proper measures are not taken, they can lead to the dismissal of good staff members for acts of drunken stupidity.

For further advice and support on this topic, you can join our FREE  Behaviours Outside of Work Webinar. You can also contact us or call our  advice line.

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About the author

Andrew Weir

Andrew has a wealth of experience in advising and representing clients of all shapes and sizes in a range of Employment Law topics from unfair dismissal through to all forms of discrimination and the complexities of TUPE. Andrew heads up our Advice Line and Advocacy teams who provide Employment Law advice to our clients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and support our clients in presenting defences at Employment Tribunals throughout the UK & Ireland.