As the season of good will approaches, many of you will be organising your annual staff parties. Christmas parties are a great way of motivating and thanking staff for all of their hard work over the year. Staff parties should be happy, positive events which staff look forward to and enjoy. Rachel Smith-Twigger, employment law specialist at Stephen Rimmer LLP shares her top tips on how to ensure your Christmas party is the friendly affair it should be:
Christmas parties are not normally associated with celebrating the Christian faith. But if the reverse is true, beware! You could discriminate against non Christian workers unless you also celebrate their religious holidays. Be considerate and try to adopt an embrace all approach.Ensure there is a wide variety of drinks and food to cater for all requirements. Consider whether the entertainment could offend and whether you also need to offer a celebratory focus for your non Christian members of staff.
Risk assess your party ahead of time. An event closely linked to the business is likely to fall within the remit of health and safety so make sure you notify workers of potential hazards in advance and consider issues such as transport and accessibility for your less able staff.
Claims for harassment against employers extend to complaints by employees that they have been harassed by their colleagues. Lewd comments, over familiarity or forcing colleagues to dance are all acts capable of amounting to harassment so do provide training and policies on equal opportunities which specifically encompass the subject of staff parties. Issue a ‘work related event’ policy setting out the standards of conduct expected and reminding employees that alcohol should only be consumed in moderation. Ensure that senior personnel maintain the same standards and ‘lead by example.’
Ensure that equal opportunity policies are distributed to all employees and operate a system recording this has been done. Write to employees ahead of parties emphasising that unauthorised absence following staff events will be dealt with by way of disciplinary action. If an employee reports in sick the morning after, properly investigate first before settling on disciplinary action. Treat all employees consistently in order to reduce the risk of constructively unfair dismissal and / or discrimination claims.