It’s that time of year…

Employers must strike a balance during Christmas celebrations. No employer wants to be seen as a Scrooge, but they must also realise that the responsibility for their staff’s actions remain with them, despite the fact that most Christmas parties take place outside of traditional work hours. According to current employment law legislation, any social event organised by an employer represents an extension of the workplace, regardless of the time or place.

It doesn’t matter whether a gathering is held in an office or alternative venue; the employer is likely to be held responsible for the behaviour of staff. Understandably, the first consideration is the consumption of alcohol. Employers are reminded that drinking alcohol can lead to accidents, fights or incidents of harassment. That is why it is important that employers establish the rules of the event beforehand so that all employees know what is expected of them.

Employees should be made fully aware that the Christmas party is a work based event and the company’s normal disciplinary procedures will apply in the event of an incident. Citation advises that this be put in writing to eradicate any doubt. If staff members are expected to return to work the following day it is important that they be made aware of the consequences, should over indulgence prevent them from attending; or even if they should attend but be deemed unfit to work.

When properly organised, the Christmas party is often one of the highlights of the working year; a chance to reward staff for their efforts, and simply have a good time. But employers need to remember that the behaviour of staff will often need to be managed as closely as other aspects of the event.

Workers should be reminded of what is expected of them at the event and the consequences if they fail to meet these standards. So long as they enjoy the party responsibly, everybody is free to have a great time.

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