'Tis the season to be jolly? Yes it is…but as office parties get into full swing, employers should be aware of ways to avoid that post party hangover. Faced with potential risks of sexual harassment, alcohol-fuelled brawls and absenteeism the morning after, how can you ensure your party is a success, without the Bah Humbug?
Here’s our top tips for employers when it comes to planning and celebrating your annual bash:
- Provide written guidance to staff about acceptable standards of behaviour, equal opportunities and harassment, and on the disciplinary sanctions that could result from breaches of the rules. In reality, the office party is an extension of the workplace, so make it clear that fighting, excessive drinking, inappropriate behaviour, sexist or racist remarks will not be tolerated. Doing so shows that you are taking reasonable steps to protect your staff from this potentially happening.
- Remind staff about the potential consequences of posting unwanted comments or embarrassing photos of themselves (the popular “selfie”) and colleagues on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during and after the party.
- Employers can be vicariously liable for acts of harassment, discrimination, or other unwanted conduct carried out by their employees. If any such allegations are made during or after the party, the key thing is to follow your own disciplinary process and ensure that any complaint is fully investigated, before action is taken. Do not be tempted to discipline any employee at the party itself. Instead, send the employee(s) home, and deal with the incident when you are back at the office, and sober!
- Restrict the amount of free alcohol available on the night and be prepared to ask individuals to take it easy if they appear worse for wear. Keep an eye on the office junior if he or she is under 18 years old, as it is against the law for them to be drinking. Also, be respectful of employees, who for whatever reasons, religious or otherwise, do not drink alcohol. Ensure a plentiful supply of alcohol-free alternatives and lots of water is available on the night.
- Be clear about your expectations regarding absence the morning after, but don’t expect miracles from those who do turn up for work! Ensure that all staff know the extent to which you will be lenient about coming into work late, and that if your expectations are breached, disciplinary action may be taken.
But of course, have fun and enjoy the party – you and your staff deserve it! We would like to wish all of you season’s greetings and a prosperous new year!