Written by DONNA BONFIELD

Christmas is fast approaching and no doubt the plans for the work Christmas do are in full swing. No one wants to be the Grinch and ruin the frivolities for all but someone will need to consider the impact that free flowing alcohol and fresh sprigs of mistletoe might have on your workforce.

There are plenty of helpful guides available for employees on how to enjoy the end of year festivities without being the talk of the office the next day but here’s our tips for you as an employer – how do you enforce rules without being viewed as the bah-humbug boss? After all, you want to show everyone you appreciate their efforts throughout the year, encourage them to let their hair down and celebrate their achievements but just without taking it that step too far.

It’s important that you’re aware that as an employer you can be held liable for the actions of your employees at official office parties, even if the seasonal celebration is held outside of their working hours and the workplace, if any misconduct takes place then it will have taken place during the course of their employment.

Tips to throwing your employees a problem free party

  1. Make staff aware that there are ground rules – even better, that there is a policy!

The party is a work related event and employees should be reminded of this. It’s a good idea to consider having a policy that outlines that inappropriate behaviour at all work events, including the Christmas party, could lead to disciplinary action. If you already have a policy then it’s worth gently reminding staff by perhaps sending an email before the party and highlight that the policy exists.

  1. Remind Managers they need to monitor behaviour

If there’s a free bar then there need to be measures in place to ensure that employees don’t take it too far.  It’s a good idea to make your Managers responsible for monitoring the activities of staff and their alcohol intake as this could potentially prevent any alcohol-related problems from happening before they arise.  Provide guidelines to your Managers on how they can deal with drunk and disorderly employees and highlight your expectations if you require them to stay sober.

  1. Take extra steps to protect your employees

It’s important to take extra steps to protect your employees during and after the party has ended. Consider arranging transport home at the end of the night for employees or plan for the party to end in enough time for employees to use public transport. As an employer, you have a duty of care to employees and must consider how they will get home after work-related social events.

  1. Consider everyone

Everyone needs to feel welcome and you should make an effort to consider that not all staff will drink alcohol, celebrate Christmas etc. Your party needs to be inclusive and so taking the time to consider everyone’s needs will help make everyone feel appreciated and included.

  1. Make non-alcoholic drinks available

If you’re going to provide a free bar then consider putting restrictions in place to prevent excessive amounts of alcohol being consumed. Maybe you could not include spirits or limit how many drinks are allowed per person. A free bar for the duration of the party might not be a good idea. We would advise supplying plenty of water and soft drinks too.

  1. Social media – think of your reputation

Sharing snaps from your Christmas party on social media can be a great way to demonstrate your company culture but remember it’s important to have a hold on what is being shared. Employees might not want their photos online and if anything is inappropriate then this could be damaging. You should have a robust social media policy and your staff should be made aware of this before the party.

  1. Post party sickness policy

If the day after the party is a work day then you should decide beforehand whether you are going to allow people to come in a bit later but be sure to make it clear where you stand on lateness and absenteeism. It is after all like any other day and should be treated this way.

  1. What to do if something goes wrong

 Just because it’s the Christmas party it doesn’t mean that inappropriate behaviour is acceptable and it must be investigated with action being taken if necessary. You have a responsibility to ensure misconduct is dealt with in line with your disciplinary procedures.

If you follow our advice then you will be able to throw a fun festive party safe in the knowledge that you have done all that you can to prevent any  unfortunate scenarios. If you need any support with producing a policy that outlines acceptable conduct at work events then please get in touch.