The BBC has reported that Lloyd’s of London have been told to behave during the Christmas season after a survey it commission revealed that 8% of its workers said that they had seen sexual harassment in the past 12 months.
Also in a recent 2019 case before the High Court, a claim was brought against an employer for an injury that was caused at a Christmas party. In this case, an employee was picked up whilst on the dance floor and accidentally dropped, resulting in serious injury. Although the employer was not found liable for the injury on the specific facts of this case (namely due to the fact that the employee was injured by someone who did not work for the employer); had the injury been caused by an employee of the employer, it’s fair to say the employer would have been liable for the injury.
It is therefore unsurprising that employers may feel a bit uneasy when it comes to arranging Christmas parties; but there are steps an employer can take to minimise the risk of a major fallout, injury or upset.
Have a social policy in place
Employers have a duty of care to their staff, so having a policy that relates to Christmas parties and work-related social events is sensible. Ask staff to read it before the Christmas party and communicate what the acceptable standards of behaviour are, making it clear that disciplinary action could be taken if an employee behaves badly.
Nominate a responsible person
A cause for many issues that occur at a Christmas party may be the consumption of alcohol. If this is of particular concern to your business, you may want to think about nominating someone within the business that will act as a chaperon during the Christmas party. The chaperon will not drink alcohol during the party and their role will be to ensure that employees are behaving appropriately.
You could think about hosting lunchtime Christmas events which are alcohol free, as an alternative to the workplace evening party.
Don’t be tempted to talk shop
Managers should avoid conversations about performance, promotion, salary or career prospects at the Christmas party. Approaching these sensitive areas in social settings can lead to problems and will invariably require follow-up at a later date.
Be sensitive to your employee’s values and culture
Be aware of religious and cultural differences and those staff members who may find the social aspects of the Christmas party overwhelming. For example, think about the selection of non-alcoholic drinks available and how to involve everyone in the event.