Claire Williams, one of our HR advisors and a senior legal assistant, said it was important for companies and their staff to realise that the same rules and obligations applied at a staff party as in the workplace.
“All too often, employers find themselves spending December and January dealing with disciplinary issues which are a direct result of bad behaviour at Christmas parties. These can range from all kinds of situations including being drunk and disorderly, fighting, or staff telling the boss exactly what they think of them.
“Not only does this mean you’re wasting valuable management time dealing with these issues, but the effects of the Christmas celebrations can often drag on further into the New Year with staff relationships being damaged. As a result, many employers are increasingly choosing not to hold Christmas parties at all, to avoid any difficulties which may affect their business.”
Claire said one of the most common problems was allegations of sexual harassment, particularly when colleagues had too much to drink.
“Sexual harassment is a serious disciplinary offence and one that could result in an employee being dismissed from the company. So it’s vital that employers who are planning festivities advise their staff well in advance of the kind of behaviour they will expect at work functions.
“The best way to deal with this is to send a memo to all staff reminding them that normal workplace rules will apply at the party, and clearly outline the behaviour that will and will not be tolerated.
“Generally though, it’s enough to just remind staff that they will need to face their colleagues on the morning after the night before, to make them think twice about the actions they may take.”