22 November 2023

Many employers will be deciding on the type of work events to host this festive season. Whether it’s a traditional turkey dinner or something more original, there are some important and potentially thorny HR issues for employers to consider. After all, the only bells we want to hear this year are jingle bells, not alarm bells.

Whilst employers will want to host an event that all employees will enjoy, it’s also important to minimise those post-party regrets.  

Setting the scene: the event invitation

Employers will need to let their employees know about details such as the dress code and when and where the event is taking place. They should combine this communication with reminders about the importance of appropriate conduct.

A long list of dos and don’ts, sent out right before the Christmas party, is admittedly not very ho ho ho. However, employers need to ensure that their employees are reminded, well in advance, of the importance of key values such as inclusivity and the potential for allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Whilst most people generally exemplify good behaviour at Christmas parties, there is always the odd exception. A timely reminder from the employer ensures everyone knows what good looks like. Even in 2023, there are still examples of bad behaviour at all levels in organisations. 

Getting it right 

Ground rules are important, especially if alcohol is on offer. Professional standards can be compromised when alcohol is consumed. We have seen some high-profile careers unravel due to unfortunate workplace behaviour from senior executives. 

Employers must remember that sexual harassment can happen through email or on social media as well as in person. Harassment can continue well after the last taxi pulls away from the venue.

Poor employee conduct at the company Christmas party (or any corporate event) can be costly for employers. Many hours of management time can be spent investigating concerns, hurt feelings and grievances and it can take years to recover from the reputational damage.

HR’s top tip

Vicarious liability means that employers are responsible for their employees’ actions ‘during the course of their employment’. This includes staff parties organised by employers, even those held off-site and with optional attendance.

If you need any HR advice and guidance in relation to managing your next event without stirring up too much HR drama, please contact Kerri Constable.