How business owners can prepare for the Work Christmas Party

We understand that for many business owners who employ staff, the festive end to the year can become a bit stressful. It’s likely that the majority of your staff will want to enjoy a ‘team night out’ to celebrate everyone’s hard work and enjoy each other’s company in a more relaxed environment.

Some employers may find that while everyone else is winding down, they are concerned that everyone is enjoying themselves, and more importantly behaving appropriately.

We work with businesses of all shapes and sizes, and we know how to support businesses to ensure there’s no major hangover to the work Christmas party! We’ve summarised our essential advice here in this blog.

What type of work Christmas party should I organise for my staff?

As individuals, we are more aware of the multicultural society that we live in, therefore you may have staff who do not celebrate Christmas for religious reasons. Some staff may not enjoy this particular time of year or may feel pressure to attend even when they don’t really want to.

Do your best to arrange something that is inclusive to all. This may mean organising an event during the day over lunch or choosing an activity as the main highlight, rather than food and alcohol.

If you require staff to contribute financially towards the Christmas party, remember to be considerate of all budgets. Those on minimum or apprenticeship wages may find it a burden on their finances, at an already expensive time of year.

If you have a large number of staff, it’s worth considering whether smaller groups would be more beneficial to staff morale and more manageable to satisfy individual preferences.

Whatever you do, make it enjoyable and of value. If that means celebrating at a different time of year, so be it.

How can I minimise the risk of staff misconduct at the work Christmas party?

The key answer here is being clear with your staff how you expect them to conduct themselves, and what behaviour is not acceptable. A work Christmas party is considered a work event taking place ‘in the course of employment’, therefore in the eyes of employment law, you the employer could be held liable for the behaviour of your staff.

You should have clear guidelines in your HR documentation (more on that below) which staff received when they were first employed. However, an email or form of written communication to staff attending the work Christmas party is a sensible way to remind everybody to keep their common sense about them and remember they should behave as if they were at work.

It’s also worth reminding staff of your expectations when it comes to work the following day, if it’s being held mid-week for example, and any disciplinary action that would be taken for any misconduct.

I’m worried about what staff could share about the work Christmas party on social media.

Increasingly, businesses are using social media to share the more informal aspects of their place of work and what they do. Customers often enjoy seeing the faces behind the names and gaining an insight behind-the-scenes.

We wouldn’t expect your teams to be providing live updates from the Christmas party (especially if alcohol is being consumed!) but staff could share photos and anecdotes through their personal profiles naming the organisation or causing embarrassment to colleagues. It’s important that staff understand that what they share on social media about work events like the Christmas party is still subject to the company’s policy on acceptable behaviour.

As social media is so instant and widely accessible, an embarrassing photo shared of one colleague by another, without their permission, could cause the identified individual a lot of personal distress. Social media policies are becoming more common within HR handbooks, which helps employers to make it clear what behaviour is unacceptable and what disciplinary action will be taken.

If you’ve identified some gaps in your HR procedure and policies – update them now!

We can’t emphasise enough that your key employment documents like your HR handbook, policies and procedures, are living documents. They shouldn’t be filed away once they’ve been written. They should be periodically reviewed to ensure they remain fit for purpose and updated with how you company operates.

We recommend reviewing and updating your employment documents every 12 months. You may find that events such as the following trigger updates as well:

  • Employment law changes

  • Employing more staff

  • Adoption of new technology for work purposes

If it comes to light that some sections are unclear or perhaps out of date, update them as soon as possible. Leaving them as is could cause you trouble further down the line.

It’s also essential that you get acknowledgement from every member of staff that they have read the documents and understand them. This acknowledgment is required for the original version they receive at the start of their employment AND for subsequent updates that are issued. The acknowledgement is extremely important and can protect you should an employee claim they did not know about a particular policy.

Technology can be a real asset here. HR software like breatheHR will allow you to share updated documents to each member of staff and create an electronic record of when they accessed it and confirmation by them that they accept they understand it. Offline printed and signed declarations will suffice if you don’t use software like breatheHR, but obviously you need to keep these records kept safe, and a new declaration signed for every update.

If you think you may need some assistance with this, or perhaps you have some questions you'd like clarification on, call the team on 01722 325833.

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