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HR Advice – Preparing Yourself for the Office Christmas Party

For most members of staff, the Christmas party is an annual highlight; a chance to mingle with fellow colleagues and let their hair down.

However, in HR terms, festive gatherings can result in major issues; particularly when alcohol is involved. Here’s more information about the common HR problems that arise from Christmas parties – and how to address them.

What are the Potential HR Issues?

  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour. At Christmas parties, it’s far easier for boundaries to become blurred, particularly when staff have been drinking alcohol. At best, things might get rowdy; at worst, equipment and furniture could get damaged, or someone might get hurt. The problem for employers here is knowing what to let slide, and what to pursue as a disciplinary issue.
  • Violence / sexual harassment. Again, this is another problem associated with alcohol consumption; not to mention the more relaxed ambiance of a Christmas party. Emotions can run high, resulting in violence or unwanted sexual advances; and as the person in charge, it’s your job to handle any situations that may arise. Staff have a right to feel safe at work, and the same still applies at work-related parties.
  • Sick day(s) afterwards. It’s not uncommon for staff members to phone in sick the following day – claiming illness, when actually, they’re suffering from a bad hangover. It’s difficult for employers to prove that the person in question is ill as a result of alcohol consumption (as opposed to a genuine illness), which adds complexity to the issue.


How to Avoid HR Problems at a Christmas Party

  • Outline appropriate behaviour in your handbook. It’s standard procedure to have a staff handbook, which should be given to every employee when they join the company. This handbook gives you the perfect opportunity to detail your code of conduct, which can cover events such as team-building activities or parties. An HR expert will be able to help you prepare a staff handbook if you haven’t got one already.
  • Reinforce expectations before the event. Before the Christmas party, it may be worthwhile to send out an email to all staff members, highlighting the sort of behaviour that would be regarded as unacceptable. This timely reminder might be all it takes to avoid serious problems on the night.
  • Be alert on the night. Tempting though it is to let your hair down with your staff, it’s a wise idea to stay relatively sober and keep an eye out for trouble. Sometimes, a quiet word in an employee’s ear is enough to keep things in check.

What if There is an Issue?

If a situation does arise on the night, it’s important to follow the procedure outlined in your staff handbook. Depending on the nature of the problem, you may need to:

  • Call the employee in for an informal chat, to discuss their behaviour.
  • Arrange for some workplace mediation to take place – to resolve conflicts before they become a major problem
  • Start a more serious disciplinary procedure (if required).

Enjoying Your Christmas Party – Without an HR Headache Attached

If you’d like to prime your business for a hassle-free Christmas party (and for a more harmonious working environment all year round), talk to Harris Law. We’re qualified HR specialists in the South-west, and we’re here to assist with every aspect of your HR requirements. To learn more, call us on 01803 861086 today.