Employee Office Parties and HR issues to consider

posted by admin on August 15, 2018.

Employee Office Parties and HR issues to consider

The Office Party is a long standing tradition and is not just limited to Christmas or indeed office staff. Although the economy is still in austere measures it doesn’t stop employers providing some sort of event, although many staff fund events themselves these days. This is often limited to bringing in food and drink into the workplace. When held at Christmas it is the season of good will and a time for some employers to thank their staff with a festive event. Morale will be high so it’s important to plan to minimise any staffing issues that may arise as a direct result of the celebrations.

There are many tales of shenanigan’s and goings on that happen at or after work ”do’s”.  In sober moments after the event there may be many red faces and for employers it can bring a host of issues. This can be potentially damaging for employers in numerous ways and not least when it gets into the media.

But it is also important that as an employer, you manage the risk of staff misconduct, grievance and other HR related issues.

What many staff seem to be ignorant of is that any event that is work related is an extension of the workplace and as such Employers are liable for third party actions.

Our society and the workplace is more and more diverse today, many staff events cater for different religions, and not all the entire workforce may want to join in boozy events. Ensure that you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. You must not make it compulsory for all staff to attend and you need to think about the composition of the workforce. Ensure that there is a vegetarian choice on the menu and consider Halal, Kosher dietary requirements etc.  The key area for a grievance to be raised is where an employee feels that they have been discriminated against is at the Office Party or through social media after or during the event.

So what can you do to manage the issues that can arise from Office Parties:-

  • Remind staff that normal rules of behaviour apply even off the premises and that the party venue is an extension of the workplace. As an employer you have a duty of care so you are still responsible at the Company’s Office Party.
  • Remind staff about your discrimination policies. They need to be reminded that any inappropriate behaviour at the Office Party is considered in the same way as working hours.
  • Remind staff not to drink and drive and to make suitable arrangements to get home if they want to drink. Consider the use of organising a mini bus or full size bus to pick up and take people home. If you don’t want to fund this then you could offer to arrange/organise this for staff on the basis that they will have to pay for this service. Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available.
  • Inform staff that over indulging at the Office Party doesn’t excuse them from coming into work the next day. If you operate a Monday to Friday business consider holding the event either on a Friday or Saturday night.
  • Don’t forget to invite staff who are on Maternity /Paternity type or if appropriate, staff on Sick Leave. You must also include Agency workers, fixed term temporary and part time staff.
  • Do not make it compulsory to attend. It might clash with non-Christian religious dates (for Christmas events).
  • If you employ under 18 years olds you need to consider the venue if you hold it off work premises to ensure that they allow under 18’s on the premises.
  • If you employ disabled staff who have access requirements  you need to ensure that the venue is fully accessible.
  • If you are providing alcoholic drinks don’t provide them free all night. Speak with the Bar staff so that they can remain vigilant in case any staff are drunk.
  • Alcohol can cause unwanted sexual advances and can fuel fights between even the best of friends.
  • If an employee becomes intoxicated it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee is taken home safely.
  • Employers can spend up to £150.00 per head on a staff event which is annual, such as a Christmas party or summer barbecue and open to all your employees, without it being treated as a taxable perk. High value gifts are tax deductible for both employer and employee.

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