CB Associates is an HR outsourcing company. We assist employers from throughout Ireland with their HR issues. Over the past number of years, the Festive Season hasn’t gone by without a Christmas HR dilemma coming to our door and where the employer needs professional help to address it. It seems that with every passing year, and ever-increasing employment legislation, not to mention case law precedent, it is something that employers should think carefully about in organising the party. The Christmas Party is a great way to help a team bond and for employers to express their appreciation to employees for their efforts throughout the year. This is particularly true this year with employers wanting to reward employees for their contributions and loyalty during the Pandemic but make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure your Christmas party is safe and fun for everyone.

Choose a venue that you know is safe and adheres to the COVID 19 protocols. Do your research in advance. Make sure the restaurant caters for dietary requirements. Does it have wheelchair access if this is what is required? Is it close to a good public transport system to facilitate travel to and from the venue? Make sure everyone gets home safe by insisting employees get a taxi or a lift home if they’ve been drinking.

Employees need to be aware that although such events may be held outside of normal working hours, the normal code of conduct/ behaviour rules still applies. What employers often don't realise is that even if the event is held off-site outside of working hours, the conduct of employees at the Christmas party is generally considered, from a legal standpoint, to be done "in the course of employment", There may be occasions when an employee behaves inappropriately, and you , as employer, have to deal with the issue after the event, particularly if a complaint is made by an employee against another employee about their inappropriate behaviour. Your employees need to know and understand they still need to behave in accordance with policies and procedures.

If an employee who has had too much to drink uses improper and inappropriate language, threatening behaviour or subjects another employee to harassment this can lead to a very serious HR issue landing on the employer’s door, particularly if the employer has paid for the event and the free bar! If such a case does arise, you will need to invoke your discipline policy, investigate the incident, and obtain witness statements, in the normal way. Any acts of violence, excessive drinking, drug taking, harassment or discrimination and even inappropriate social media postings, including photos and video footage, at or following an event, can result in an HR nightmare for employers.

The issuing of an e-mail to all staff prior to the event reminding them of the rules and expectations is a good idea. Draw their attention to policies such as Anti-Bullying & Harassment, Dignity in the Workplace and Social Media Policy. This may hopefully negate any issues arising, or at least put you in a strong position to be able to deal with any problems.

Wishing all our clients a safe and enjoyable Christmas party season