North East Connected

Newcastle solicitor issues advice on Christmas office parties.

A North East solicitor specialising in employment law has issued a festive survival guide to employers to help them ensure that the office Christmas party flows smoothly without any embarrassing staff issues. 

By the very nature of the event, office parties often take place within office hours and as such, employment law comes into play together with the prospect of the Scrooge like boss initialising disciplinary procedures for unruly and badly behaved staff. Even those parties that occur after traditional hours or at different venues can fall foul of employment rules and regulations.

David Gibson of Newcastle solicitors, Short, Richardson and Forth normally deals with a broad range of employment matters including Employment Tribunal representation, corporate support and drafting policies and procedures but it’s at Christmas time that he is often at his busiest.

 “In previous years we’ve seen a number of people coming to see us for advice when things have gone wrong at the Christmas party. There are always a number of embarrassed faces that could be avoided if common sense was applied. That’s why I’ve put together a guide I’ve named “The 12 days and Perils of Christmas.””

The web blog guide takes a lighthearted but important look at the relevant and appropriate employment law that should be considered at Christmas before any festivities take place.

The guide covers practical and sensible advice for employers to help them cope with potential situations from how to respect the religious beliefs of others to what to do if things get out of hand at the party.

As David explains, one of the first things an employer should do is tell their employees how they are expected to behave.

“Employers owe a duty of care to their employees and all should be warned that inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable. This includes inappropriate touching and comments that could lead to claims of discrimination against the company and the individual concerned.

“People should also be mindful of the religious or philosophical beliefs of others too. It is a Christian festival and not all employees will want or feel the need for forced jocularity or so called team-bonding time. For example encouraging people to drink who don’t normally partake in alcohol can lead to inappropriate and unnecessary stress for some employees. Careful consideration should also be given to venue choice and the type of event. For example is the venue accessible for those with physical impairments? 

However, it is generally the lethal cocktail of loud music, alcohol and often-misguided good will to all, that causes the most trouble at the office party.

“Even before the first cork is popped, the manager should make sure that everyone who is entitled to be at the party is at least invited. Too often, those on maternity leave or long term sick are forgotten about. Likewise, we take for granted that we often invite our spouses but forget that an employee in a same sex relationship is as entitled as the next person to have their loved one with them.

“Once the invitations are done and the party is in full swing, remind your staff of any social media policies that you may have in place in case you are seen in a bad light on Twitter or Facebook and remember, not everyone likes their photo taken either.

“If there are post party issues, try to resolve them as quickly as possible to stop them turning into bigger worries over the Christmas holidays and if they still can’t be resolved in house, come and join the queue here for our expert and discrete help.”

David’s main advice however is to plan ahead and use his six step action guide:

·   Communicate with staff in advance

·         Warn against inappropriate behaviour

·         If you see it get out of hand, deal with it

·         Make sure people get home safely

·         Deal with any post party problems promptly

·         Respect others

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