Legal Pitfalls to Avoid at the Office Christmas Party
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The office Christmas party – for some, a stomach-churning obligation, for others, the ultimate reward for a year of hard work and sacrifice. Whatever your thoughts on it, there’s no denying that it poses yet another opportunity for legal trouble unless it’s handled as another aspect of running a successful and respectable business, rather than a booze-up.
Foregoing Disciplinary Proceedings
Sure, the Christmas party is pretty much the polar opposite of ‘business as usual’ for your office. After all, it’s organised with the intention to keep your employees motivated to let their hair down, socialise, and enjoy one another’s a company outside of the usual 9-5 routine in celebration of another year gone. The point is not to be professionally tight-lipped, but to be in good spirits. For that reason, it’s all too easy to feel a little complacent about behaviour that would otherwise be dealt with according to your disciplinary or grievance procedures. Nevertheless, this is still a healthy workplace function, and getting complacent around inappropriate behaviour will always be a poor choice, with potentially significant ramifications for your business, and its reputation.
Turning a Blind Eye
Unfortunately, office place bullying doesn’t stop just because the halls are decked and the stocking hung – in fact, with the readymade excuses of alcohol and festive banter, there may be more opportunities for employees to be unfairly treated than there are at any other time of the year. Your obligation to ensure a safe, fair and harmonious environment for your employees doesn’t end when the Christmas music comes on. Consulting your HR systems or employment lawyers like www.willans.co.uk on any issues that are brought to your attention by your employees can be one course of action for you to take to stamp out bullying in the workplace.
Overlooking a Major Hangover
It’s quite rare for employers to know exactly what their employees were doing the night before their next shift. With the exception of a few office functions, midnight oil sessions and events throughout the year, the office Christmas party represents one of the only times you can predict who will walk through the door with a headache, and who might not be walking through the door at all. It’s easy to remind employees that their decisions at the office party bar do not excuse them from turning up to work the next day without a clear head as once the damage has been done, there’s no undoing it.
Alcohol can remain in your system longer than you might realise and if your employees could pose a danger to themselves or others – whether they spend part of the workday on the road, or operating machinery – the only sensible recourse is to stop them. The office Christmas party can often feel like more trouble than it’s worth. It remains an important opportunity to reward your employees, and as though they are included as part of the team, but it doesn’t represent a ‘break’ from the realities of managing a team of people – some of whom might not see eye to eye, even at Christmas.