5 things to keep in mind when planning a Christmas party

Posted on 17th October 2018

It has started already; Christmas cards appearing in the shops, arbitrary emails from venues declaring that if you do not book now, then you will miss the opportunity to host your company Christmas party in the most prestigious venue.

The unwelcome task of planning the event falls into your inbox and suddenly the expectations of your cohort rest heavily on your shoulders. How will you manage everyone’s expectations, within the limited budget available, whilst catering for a vegan, a lactose intolerant, a range of religious denominations and a wide range of age groups?

If that was not enough to contend with, I would recommend that you also consider a couple of other points:


You are not going to please everyone!

You knew this already, didn’t you? What you do need to be considerate of, is that not everyone celebrates Christmas and there should be no obligation on anyone to give up their free time to attend a function.

Whilst a Christmas party would not necessarily be perceived as discriminatory (unless you restrict your guest list based on people’s characteristics), you might like to consider whether your arrangements disadvantage any religious group. Muslims do not drink or associate with alcohol, so holding your party in a pub may prevent any Muslim employees from attending the party.

For those with caring responsibilities, such as small children, it may not be possible to arrange care to attend an event, or too expensive at a time when money is needed to deal with the items on the list to Father Christmas.

All employees should be invited, so do remember those currently on maternity, paternity leave or long-term sick (where appropriate). It might be a great opportunity for them to reconnect with the business prior to returning to work in the longer term.


What about employee’s conduct at the event?

As a work event, employees should be reminded that they will be perceived as ambassadors for the company and your brand. As an employer, whilst it may seem generous to offer a free bar, if you encourage staff to drink, then you need to be prepared for alcohol fuelled conduct.

You want people to have a great time but dealing with brawls, harassment and vomit may make the evening memorable for all the wrong reasons.

At the risk of sounding like a kill joy, if you are planning to hold your party mid-week, (to take advantage of the discounted rates), then you should set out in advance, that employees should consider booking the following day off work but under no circumstances are they to arrive at work under the influence of alcohol.

If an employee fails to attend work the day after the Christmas party, the company absence procedures will apply.

With the rise in the use of social media, you might like to review your social media policy. People posting photos of others drunk, throwing up in the toilets may not be the image you were hoping to be linked to your brand. (Note that whilst the uploaded image might not be attached to your social media account, the employee may set themselves as working for your company, or associate the image with your company).

You might like to consider setting out your expectations in terms of their behaviour at the function in a letter or email inviting them to attend.


Drunken conversations

Fuelled by Dutch courage, employees may seek to start conversations with their managers or directors about a pay increase, promotion or all that is wrong with the company. It is never a good idea to agree to anything when under the influence of alcohol. Avoid any such conversation, suggesting instead a meeting when you are both back in the office.


Drink driving

If there is to be alcohol at the event, how are your employees going to get home? Drink driving is totally unacceptable, and the company’s position should be clear in this respect.

As an employer you may still be responsible for an employee driving home from an office party. You can still stipulate that it is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that they get home safely, but list out some options such as local taxi firms, negotiate a favourable rate to stay at the venue (if they have rooms), or encourage a lift share scheme.


Responsibility for what happens at the Christmas party

If the function is organised as the company Christmas party – even if it is away from the normal workplace – it could be perceived as falling within the interpretation of ‘in the course of employment’. As such, if one of your employee’s acts inappropriately, e.g. in an alcohol fuelled act, hits another employee, it could be perceived as gross misconduct under your company’s disciplinary policy.

If the event is only attended by those that are employed by your company, it is likely that it will be seen as an extension of the workplace; so the standard company policies apply.


I hope that I haven’t put you off organising a Christmas party! With a bit of forward planning and clear expectations there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have an enjoyable event. If you’d like any further advice though, please get in touch.

Gwyneth Hodgkinson Character
Written by:
Gwyneth Hodgkinson
HR Development Consultant