Get the Christmas Party Right

It’s that time of year again. Love them or hate them, the invitations to office Christmas parties will be arriving soon if they haven’t already. For employers, parties pose a particular threat. Here are some tips on making sure your Christmas office party doesn’t bring New Year blues:

1. Health and Safety
It is important to carry out an assessment of all possible risks and take reasonable steps to reduce them, as you would for any work activity. Avoid rubber…well, balloons in particular. One person in 20 suffers from an allergy to latex. Also, make sure your Christmas tree is well secured. Over 1,000 people annually are injured by Christmas trees. Anything involving a naked flame is a bad idea. Check that decorations are put up safely and do not pose a fire hazard.

2. Smoking
Regrettably for smokers, the smoking ban is not suspended for the festive season.

3. Drink
Many people consider work the curse of the drinking classes, especially where the alcohol runs free. One of the biggest causes of post-festive season litigation is people letting their hair down (as they see it) and things getting out of control. Employees should be made aware that normal disciplinary procedures apply. Employers can be held responsible for employees' actions after consuming alcohol provided by the employer, so take care!

By the way, the law on serving alcohol to minors is also not suspended for the festive season and many people do not drink on religious grounds. Make sure soft drinks are available.

4. Drugs
Permitting the use of controlled substances on your premises is a criminal offence; the good news is that you’ll probably only get a fine if prosecuted. Your employees probably wouldn’t come to visit you in prison anyway.

5. Mistletoe
You’d have to be brave, foolish or both to risk it.

6. Driving
An employer has a duty of care towards staff; it is probably a better investment to pay for a few taxis than a few extra pints.

7. Chit Chat and Banter
Beware of letting your good humour get the better of you! Many an employee becomes disgruntled when promises alleged to have been made at the firm’s ‘do’ are not kept. As far as banter goes, the rule has to be to make sure you step in at the point when the Olympic champion for being thin-skinned would take offence. One person’s banter is another’s ground for a discrimination claim. The same goes for actual behaviour. To tolerate is to condone and to condone is a dangerous policy.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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