Home Business News Leading lawyers are warning SMEs over the infamous office Christmas party

Leading lawyers are warning SMEs over the infamous office Christmas party

by LLB Reporter
15th Dec 23 7:04 am

Leading lawyers are warning that businesses need to be careful as office party season approaches.

The Christmas period can be an excellent time for workplaces to relax and employees to have fun. It gives an opportunity for a company’s culture to blossom, teams to bond and for everyone to get into the Christmas spirit.

However, with social events like office parties, the blurring of personal and professional can present some unique HR problems that frequently occur during the festive period. Phil Pepper, employment expert at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, gives some top tips on how to encourage employees to have fun but also maintain boundaries at the same time.

The infamous office Christmas party

“So notorious, movies have been made on the topic – the office Christmas party gives employees an opportunity to let their hair down with their colleagues. While boundaries may vary from workplace to workplace, the urge to let loose can take the party to an extreme which is unsuitable for any workplace environment.

“Behaviour is often top down, so ensuring that management and senior team members are upholding the company’s’ values and being an example to others is key to making sure other employees follow suit. Office parties are generally considered extensions of the workplace, so all the usual policies will continue to apply.

Not so secret Santa

“Secret Santa is popular in workplaces as an inclusive way to give gifts during the festive period. However, there have been cases of employees using the game as a way of gifting offensive presents in order to bully, harass or embarrass their colleagues. The secrecy involved in this Christmas tradition is what makes it risky for workplaces, as employers still need to be able to hold people accountable.

“Online secret Santa name draw generators are a tool which can allow employers to have a way of tracing back who could have potentially gifted a present. While this does not guarantee that someone who has gifted something will be caught, it can be a good starting point for employers who do have to investigate incidences.

Think about drink

“Many of the social occasions at Christmas can revolve around alcohol, which can feel isolating for those who can’t or don’t drink for a variety of reasons. Booking an activity or going for a meal can be more inclusive, as opposed to a party or going to the pub. Either way, making sure all employees feel included will help strengthen the team spirit and ensure a happy workplace.

Mental health at Christmas 

“Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, especially if they are separated from loved ones. This has to be respected and treated sensitively to make sure everyone is given the opportunity to be included in the festive fun but are able to opt out if necessary.

“The key here for employers is open communication with employees, making sure you understand everyone’s wants and needs during the Christmas period. Employers should consider if they can offer further services, for example mental health support, for people who may be struggling.

Discretion without discrimination

“With the rising cost-of-living set to cause problems for some employees over the Christmas period, many directors have been thinking of ways to help their workforce. One such way could be to introduce a discretionary Christmas bonus for employees who may be in more need of support over the winter months, however, it is important that the workplace does not make itself liable for discrimination in who and how the bonus is awarded.

“If a bonus is given regularly over a period of time, then employees could argue that it has become contractual even if it is not stated. Companies should ensure that their policies and contracts state that any bonuses are discretionary in order to avoid this confusion.”

Leave a Comment

You may also like


Sign up to our daily news alerts

[ms-form id=1]