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Christmas Parties: what you and your employees might not realise

Christmas Parties: what you and your employees might not realise
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Christmas Parties: what you and your employees might not realise
Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells by Sandhya Iyer - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells
Director - HR Dept Sevenoaks Tonbridge Tunbridge Wells

While many businesses look forward to a quiet period between Christmas and New Year, it tends to be one of the busiest periods for HR professionals. That’s because they’re often helping people pick up the post-office-party pieces, dealing with the repercussions of employees who have wrongly assumed they’re at a purely social event and employers who haven’t accounted for their own liabilities. Sandhya Iyer of The HR Dept explains how to navigate your way through the legal do’s and don’ts – while still having a good time.

Christmas parties still under contract

While a Christmas party certainly provides a great opportunity to celebrate together and say thank you to your staff, it doesn’t change the fact that your employees are still operating under a contract of employment once they accept the invite to the office Christmas do. Never assume this is as obvious to them as it might be to you! In small- and medium-sized businesses, where social ties may be even deeper and wider than within large corporates, it is particularly imperative to have some basic guidelines in place ahead of the festive season. These will send out the right message to all your staff, putting you in the best position to enjoy a Christmas party with staff and colleagues that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

A polite notice! 

If your business doesn’t already have a handbook in place that contains the necessary information, this would be a good time to send out a notice regarding the office party. This should ideally remind your staff about the office Christmas do and include expectations from management regarding dress code and consumption of alcohol. If you are going to brave an open bar, all the more imperative to have clear guidelines about company codes of conduct and the consequences for any breach of it. The advice from any HR team, however, would be to steer clear of any open-bar policy and keep it simple - at best a complimentary drink per employee.

Taxi, coach or neither? 

Did you know that, as the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your staff make it back home safely after an office Christmas do? You have a duty of care to ensure your staff are fit, safe and able to make their way home - and hence it is always advisable to plan appropriate transport arrangements for all your staff on the night of the Christmas do. If you have booked a coach, include details in the staff notice that you send out containing all the info about the party.

Back-up plan

Despite best efforts and proactive wisdom, it is always best to plan for Christmas party dramas. Make sure you’ve got a back-up plan, whereby member/s of staff and/or management remain on standby until the party has wrapped up and all your staff have reached home safely. Outline what you would do if things didn’t go according to plan and how you would address any given situation that might arise. Be sure to consider how long it might take you to organise any necessary action and who you’d approach, especially if your party is on a busy Friday or Saturday evening. 

Those who are well prepared and have an employee handbook in place are certainly ahead of the game. Issue a gentle reminder in writing of the expected code of conduct before any Christmas social and have a back-up plan with all your HR elves in a row so you can enjoy the evening.

Christmas socialising is meant to be fun – planning ahead means you can get everyone on the same page, so you can all relax and enjoy yourselves.


Sandhya Iyer  is the director of The HR Dept , helping small- and medium-sized businesses in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent.  A graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development , she works with business owners, entrepreneurs and managers to prevent people problems and help them get the best from their staff.

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