It may only be 23 sleeps until Christmas but many companies will be having their Christmas parties over the next couple of weeks. It’s always a challenging time for HR departments to not seem like kill joys however we are often the ones dealing with the fall out after the office bash!
So, what can employers do to protect against HR hangovers in 2014?
What is unacceptable: You need to clarify what type of behaviour is unacceptable, such as harassment and fighting. Your employees should understand that any Christmas party organised for work colleagues is technically a work activity and, as such, normal disciplinary procedures will apply.
Limit the Christmas spirit: If you’ve chosen to supply alcohol at your party, or you’ve encouraged its consumption by putting money behind the bar, you may be deemed legally responsible for the welfare of employees if they suffer from a drink related incident, even if it occurs outside the party. You can limit your liability by giving your employees a limited number of ‘free drinks’ tickets or holding your party in an external venue which gives the venue management some of the responsibility for declining to serve anyone who has had a little too much.
Avoid ‘tipple tattle’: At all costs avoid discussing promotion, salary, career prospects or other matters more appropriately discussed in a formal appraisal or in private with employees who may use the party situation to broach these.
Bin the mistletoe: The Christmas party is a heady combination of drink and lowered inhibitions, the perfect environment for a festive fling. A brief encounter under the mistletoe can cause embarrassment at work the day after, or worse still, leave you with allegations of sexual harassment.
Beware of drink driving: As the employer you are responsible for your employees’ actions after consuming the alcohol you’ve provided. Include advice in your behavioural guidelines about not driving after consuming alcohol. Consider ending the party before public transport stops, make the phone numbers for local taxi firms available or even hire a mini bus to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to minimise this risk.
Expect less the morning after: Decide how lenient you will be towards staff coming to work the worse the wear for drink, arriving late, or even not at all, the day after the party and make sure your employees know this before the party. The safety of employees is paramount, especially if they need to drive or operate machinery and are not fully sober.
For advice on Human Resource Management, contact ProAktive on 01302 341 344.
By Louise Addison.