Although recent research claims that up to 25% of businesses in the UK will not be holding a Christmas party this year due to tight budgets, the majority of companies in the region will still be holding a Christmas party for their staff. As employers, the Christmas party brings the headache of finding a venue to suit everyone, and the annual debate whether employees can bring their partners or not to contend with.  In addition, despite the fact that the party takes place outside normal working hours; employers may find themselves liable for the behaviour of their employees.

There are a number of issues employers must take into consideration when organising the Christmas party. Our below guide can help you avoid the pitfalls and spread some festive cheer’¦

  1. Getting the venue right. The premises of the party have to be suitable for everyone, comply with health and safety regulations and have suitable access for disabled staff. Whilst the majority of venues offering Christmas parties will meet these criteria, it is always sensible to arrange a visit to the venue whereby you can carry out a quick risk assessment.  The smoking policy within the venue should be communicated to employees, and the smoking ban observed.
  2. Open to all to attend. It is vital that employers ensure the party is timed so that all employers, regardless of age, gender, religion, disability or any other factor have the opportunity to attend. Should any section of the workforce be seen to be favoured or discriminated against in this way, employers could find themselves under question under the Equality Act.
  3. Transport. Employers may also liable for an accident that has been caused following the Christmas party due to drink driving. A step in place to provide transport after the party is a good idea to prevent this from happening.
  4. It is likely that the party will involve the consumption of alcohol, which can of course, when consumed in excess, have an undesirable effect on people’s actions and behaviour. In order to prevent people behaving in an unacceptable manner, employers need to take a sensible approach to the provision of alcohol and be alert to take quick action to nip any unruly behaviour in the bud. Employees need to be reminded prior to the event that although out of the office, they are still representing the company, and as such any behaviour that could be damaging to the company’s reputation will be dealt with accordingly.
  5. Set your stall out. Prior to the event, employers might consider communicating a set of policies and procedures in relation to harassment, discrimination and bullying. Employers should give examples of what is and what is not acceptable, making it clear that such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action.

The Christmas party should be a time to celebrate the successes of the year and enjoy spending time with colleagues outside of the work environment, not least for the business owners. If certain precautionary preparations are made, employers can relax on the night, safe in the knowledge that they have taken steps to ensure the safety of their staff, therefore avoiding potential liability.

If you require any further advice on the Christmas party from an employment law perspective, or indeed any employment law matter, please do get in touch.