1 November 2022

Now that Halloween is behind us we will start looking forward and preparing for the holiday period which is only a few weeks away. This year, also with Covid-19 behind us, preparations for work Christmas parties may soon be underway too. This year, after two years of prohibitions, work Christmas parties will be more than just a reward for another year of great service.

Although we all look forward to the happy atmosphere together with our co-workers, there is never a guarantee that everything will go as planned. More often than not, this might end up being an HR headache.

From workers who get a more than just tipsy and maybe also say something regrettable to a colleague if not to their boss, to those who bring guests without permission, and even claims of inappropriate behaviour among co-workers. It makes sense that companies and HR departments get a little anxious before Christmas gatherings. You should not, if you ensure that you have a set of policies in place to deal with them appropriately.

Although draconian blanket restrictions may not always be the solution, being ready is usually a good idea. Just before we all leave to enjoy Christmas and the new year, do not let yourself in a scenario you cannot handle.

From employees who have a little too much to drink and say something unfortunate to the boss, to people bringing unapproved +1’s and even allegations of inappropriate behaviour between co-workers. Understandably, Christmas parties often make HR departments and employers a bit nervous. But they don’t have to be. You just need to make sure you’ve got a set of policies in place to handle them properly.

A Party Policy

This should cover in and outside work social events. The way people behave at the Christmas party can have some fairly severe repercussions if the right set of policies are not in place. Even when an employee works outside of the typical office setting and working hours, companies may nonetheless be liable for their safety and behaviour. The employer is ultimately in charge of everything, just like it would be during a regular workday, since it is a designated work event.

What Should You Tell Your Employees

As a minimum, you should have a formal policy in writing and documentation for the work social events, including the Christmas party, in your policies and procedures. You should list your expectations again, just before the event. Emphasis that attendees must conduct themselves in a decent and adult manner throughout the event to keep things informal. Four key areas should be included in your policy:

Employees Obligations: First off, employees may not be required to show up and so list your expectations if they do not and the event is being held during working hours. Keep in mind that there may be those who do not want to take part for ethical or personal reasons. Those who show up, are generally responsible for protecting both their own health and safety as well as the health and safety of others.

Unacceptable Behaviour: Make it clear that any unacceptable conduct or behaviour will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences if anything should go wrong. Make it clear that any problems that develop during a work social event will still be dealt with seriously. This includes an employee’s conduct toward co-workers, visitors, guests, or venue personnel.

You should list instances of improper behaviour which may include:

  • excessive intoxication,
  • using drugs or alcohol illegally,
  • unlawful or inappropriate harassment or discrimination, and
  • violence, such as fighting or violent behaviour, verbal abuse, or inappropriate language.

It is advisable to remind staff members that any of the aforementioned will be considered gross misconduct and it will be handled accordingly.

Alcohol Consumption: You should emphasise to your employees and their guests, if they are allowed to be accompanied by any, that alcohol should be consumed moderately. Make it clear that although the company is providing alcohol, it does not constitute a justification or permission to consume excessive amounts of alcohol while on the clock. This also applies in cases when the alcohol might not be made available by the company too.

Getting Home: Always remind your staff members that they should never drink and drive and that they should make safe transportation arrangements if they intend to consume alcohol.

The Day After: If the event is held during a weekday remind employees that they are expected to report to work the next day in a fit state to perform their regular duty. It is not appropriate to take a sick day due to a hangover. Remind staff members that absence policies and all other standard workplace rules still apply during the event.

It is crucial to keep in mind to balance your strategy. Many companies who have never hosted a workplace party may play it very “safe” and try to regulate every single aspect, which can completely take the pleasure out of the event. It is not your responsibility to micromanage each employee’s behaviour throughout the party; rather, it is your responsibility to remind employees of these regulations and follow up with any difficulties. It can take some time to find the right balance between unwinding and having fun and making sure you fulfil your commitments as an employer, but it is possible.

We would be happy to assist you if you do not know where to begin.