Christmas parties can be a nightmare… from an HR point of view

Soon, Christmas work parties will be in full force! It is worthwhile taking the below into account. Remember, if you as an employer are putting on a Christmas party, whether on your premises or at an outside location then you have responsibilities under employment and health and safety laws.  

Ensure that you have the relevant policies in place and staff handbooks are up to date with the issues below covered. This helps to avoid any misunderstandings in the future as employees will be aware of your expectations.

Alcohol and Drugs

If the employees have to drive a vehicle, they cannot be over the legal limit the following morning. As an employer, you are liable for their actions when they are acting in the court of their employment so be mindful of employees who could potentially be over the limit the next morning. If a majority of employees will consume alcohol, then arrange transport.

Remember some people want a soft drink rather than alcohol and for some it is a necessity on religious grounds or due to the fact they are the designated driver. 

Watch for drugs use.  It is an offence to knowingly permit (or ignore) the use/supply of drugs.

Whilst it may be an office Christmas party, it is still deemed as a working environment. Employees telling one another how they really feel about one another in ‘banter’ or playing pranks could be misconstrued. Any grievance, should be dealt with. This extends to the world of social media, any confession or inappropriate posts will still have to be dealt with accordingly.

Any failures of employees to attend work the next day is a disciplinary offence. This should be applied to all employees to ensure no discrimination claims arise. 

It is a good idea to designate certain people in management/supervisory roles to oversee the level of behaviour at parties.  Remember that your involvement in putting on the party can lead to claims for discrimination, harassment, assault which you could be liable for.

Some religions or faiths don’t recognise Christmas since it is a Christian holiday.  Make it clear that attendance at a party is entirely voluntary.

Lawgistics Members can utilise HR Manager, an easy to understand, simple to use piece of software that enables you to manage all aspects of HR, Employment Law, Health and Safety and GDPR compliance for your business. HR Manager is FREE and available to all Lawgistics members. Call 01480 455500 to start using HR Manager today or to talk to your legal advisor.


Authors: Roxanne Bradley

Published: 11 Nov 2019


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