Christmas parties – “do’s” and “don’ts” for employers

by Employment Law Advice Solicitors on December 24, 2012

  • SumoMe

Christmas is both an exciting time of the year and – unfortunately – a potentially problematic one. Employers can demonstrate their goodwill to their employees (and show off a little bit) by having lavish Christmas parties and entertaining their staff. However, Christmas parties (and the Christmas season in general) can also bring problems bubbling to the surface which can (in certain circumstances) result in the business facing an Employment Tribunal claim. We’ve therefore compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” through which employers can enjoy the best of the Christmas season but avoid the worst of the litigation.

  1. Christmas Party “do’s”
  2. Christmas Party “dont’s”
  3. How to avoid Employment Tribunal claims after the Christmas Party

Christmas Party “do’s”

Do update your various policies and procedures

Make sure that you have your equality policies, anti-harassment policies and various disciplinary and grievance procedures up to date and easily-accessible. Send a reminder out to employees in good time that they should be aware of (and have read) these policies.

Do notify your employees well in advance

Send a written reminder out to employees in advance of the Christmas party reminding them of their responsibilities and that their conduct should largely fall within what would be acceptable on work premises (if the party is held outside of work premises).

Do deal with any subsequent grievances promptly and properly

Deal with any complaints efficiently, promptly and properly. A failure to deal with a complaint in line with the ACAS Code of Practice could lead to a constructive dismissal claim or discrimination claim.

Do be inclusive

If you’re having a “+1” party then extend the invites not only to spouses but to girlfriends, boyfriends, civil partners etc.

Do remind senior employees not to talk about promotions, disciplinaries etc.

The adage “loose lips sink ships” applies here – if, for example, your senior employees discuss a potential promotion with a member of staff then this can cause problems in the future; a failure to promote may be seen as a breach of contract which could lead to a constructive dismissal claim for breach of a verbal contract.

Christmas Party “dont’s”

Don’t allow Secret Santa to get out of hand

Make it clear to your employees that potentially offensive Secret Santas are not welcome – however funny they may be. An offensive Secret Santa present could lead to a claim for harassment (potentially a sexual harassment claim) or some other form of discrimination claim.

Don’t have unlimited alcohol at the Christmas party

Alcohol loosens inhibitions and in a workplace environment this is probably “a bad thing”. Keep employees in line by keeping the bar tab in check.

Don’t hold the party mid-week (if you can help it)

A mid-week party means a consequent mid-week drop in productivity. Try and arrange the Christmas party for a Friday or Saturday.

How to avoid Employment Tribunal claims after the Christmas Party

Make sure that you’ve covered yourself by forewarning employees and by dealing with any potential “fall-out” reasonably and efficiently. If you keep to these guidelines then there is a good chance that you’ll avoid an Employment Tribunal claim and even if you don’t that you’ll be able to successfully defend it.

Employment Law Advice Solicitors offers employment law advice for employees.

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