HR issues and Christmas Parties

Christmas is a time of celebration for many and a great opportunity for organisations to give something back to their employees and show them how much they are valued. It is a chance to say thank you for the hard work and commitment over the past year.

Many organisations favour throwing an office Christmas party which often comes with free food and alcohol. But what happens when it all goes wrong, and certain employees seem to have forgotten that they are drinking heavily in front of their managers?

Now, we know that everyone thinks of HR as the ‘fun police’ but our advice is based on the fact that the leading cause of grievances around this time of year is for harassment, victimisation, bullying or discrimination by a fellow employee.  Alcohol can make people behave out of character and it is important that organisations make it clear to employees that an office Christmas party is simply an extension of the workplace, and the same rules still apply.

So how can organisations avoid the office Christmas party becoming a HR nightmare?

Treat everyone the same – make sure that everyone is invited and there is a little something ‘fun’ for everyone. Remember, what might suit one will not suit another, and not everyone drinks alcohol anyway. Why not think outside the box and go for something a bit difference this year? Maybe ask employees for their suggestions, this also helps organisations promote inclusivity.

Avoid giving away alcohol – if you still favour the good old fashioned office party, with a DJ and free food, consider not making alcohol free but instead either limit alcohol consumption or have employees purchase their own drink. This also shows consideration for those who don’t drink alcohol and is a great way to show that everyone is treated the same.

Policy – ensure that your organisation has a policy on attending workplace events that clearly sets out conduct and behaviour expectations. Of course, it’s not just important to have a policy but to ensure that your employees are aware of the policy. The policy should remind employees that they are still bound by the organisation’s rules when they attend a workplace event.

As always, our team of HR experts are here to provide advice to anyone who is thinking of throwing an office Christmas party this year.