Christmas HR Advice – Important things to know

With the Christmas season just around the corner, lots of businesses are thinking about their Christmas nights out. We’re not the HR police, and we love a night out as much as anyone, but we don’t want to see you suffering a hangover this Christmas. You don’t want to deal with HR issues following what should be a time of celebration.


So, we thought we would give you Christmas HR advice to avoid any problems.  We’re normally very busy in December dealing with such issues, so we’re qualified to give advice on this topic!


It’s important that you realise the potential issues which could arise as a result of a Christmas party. It is also important to seek HR advice when you are faced with certain issues. Whether this is in the office, within working hours, out of hours or away from the office.  Regardless of when and where you hold the event, this is seen as an extension of the workplace.


Key Issues


Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” on key issues that arise around this time of year. We will also touch on Christmas HR advice we have touched on over a number of years.


Furthermore, You have probably already planed your event, but here are points you should consider:


  • Select a venue which is accessible to disabled people (if applicable) and which will not offend a particular sex or religion.
  • Make the event inclusive for all staff (check if anyone is on maternity or sick leave or any other leave, and make sure they are invited).
  • Take time to remind staff about the policies you have in place and make sure they are clear. on what you consider to be unacceptable behaviour.
  • Avoid conversations about employee performances, salary, career prospects etc.


  • Don’t spend too long with one or two individuals.


  • Try to speak to as many of the team as you can and make a point of talking to people you don’t often get the chance to engage with at work.


  • Enjoy the occasion.


Do’s and Don’ts



Do –

Invite all colleagues. Although, remember, people may not want to attend for religious or family reasons.  Think about those that can’t make it for operational reasons. In addition, you may have shift workers and they need to provide cover when your event is taking place.  Can you do something else for them? Either a separate event or provide pizza etc. when they’re at work?


Don’t – force everyone to go – this could be seen as potentially discriminatory.  Attendance should be voluntary.


Secret Santa 

Do –

Be mindful of presents exchanged in a secret Santa which could be seen as offensive.  There’s banter and what could cross the line!


Don’t condone any discriminatory behaviour as you and the company are liable for the acts of your employees



Food and Drink

Do – Make sure there is enough food to line everyone’s stomach and not too much free alcohol.  I’ve seen companies limit this per person by using tokens etc. to monitor consumption.  We had a case a few years back where a manager blamed his conduct on the fact the company provided free alcohol and no food!


Do – check if anyone has any dietary requirements. This is important to avoid any allergic reactions, and for religious reasons.


Do – ensure there are enough soft drinks and water available (again for religious reasons and non-drinkers).


Don’t – allow underage drinking (its illegal!).


Employee Discussions


Do remember that conversations that take place are seen as an extension of the workplace. so, don’t give feedback to people on work performance, career progression or pay increases! And don’t talk about other colleagues with your team!


Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination


This is hugely topical at the moment with the recent claims in Hollywood, Parliament and a certain Royal Family member.  This is the area that causes HR professionals the most problems as this is where your business is at most risk.


Do – make it clear to all employees that bullying, harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated, ensure it is clear in your polices that anything that occurs at the party is in the course of their employment and therefore would be investigated using the disciplinary procedure. Do ensure your policies are up to date within your Employee Handbook.


Don’t comment on the way someone looks unless you have that type of relationship with them – this could be taken out of context.  Don’t engage in banter with people who you do not know very well, especially if you are in a managerial position as any comments made could offend someone. Even if this is unintentional this could amount to discrimination leaving the company liable for the actions of that employee in a claim of discrimination.


Don’t make any sexual advances on any of your staff.  Sexual advances are usually one sided and a common issue at Christmas parties. I’ve seen many managers be the subject of a sex discrimination claim as a result. In addition, we suggest you seek Christmas HR advice as this needs to be taken seriously.


Don’t be afraid to tell anyone who is behaving badly or inappropriately to leave the party.  You’re still the boss!


Do- be consistent in your approach to all staff – this avoids complaints of bias or unfair treatment.


Criminal Offences and Drugs

Do remember it is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit or even ignore the use or supply of controlled drugs taking on their premises (this extends to work parties off site).  The same applies to knowingly let people drive home after consuming alcohol.


Social Media

Do – use social media but allocate a designated person to post the office party photos etc. on Facebook and Twitter (only if you have permission of the individual to post the photo).


Do – submit all posts after the event and not during it to avoid mistakes or posting inappropriate material.


Don’t let staff do what they want as this could damage the reputation of the company and could result in complaints by staff who did not agree to the posting of their photograph online.


Do have a social media policy in place – if you don’t have one contact Jodie Hill who can provide one for you.


Getting Home Safely

Do – ensure your employees get home safely, be mindful of the drunken state some will be in and provide taxi numbers and/ or check the train times and be mindful of your female and younger employees.  Could you organise your own transport for people, or arrange accommodation for those that live a fair distance from the venue?


The Morning After

Do – if you are working the next day, make it clear if you are allowing people to come in late what the new start time is.


Don’t expect everyone to be as normal next day –most people will be tired and a little worse for wear, hence a later start can sometimes help with morale and productivity.  Could you hold the event before a non-working day?

Do treat everyone the same – disparity of treatment can result in unfair dismissals and discrimination claims.

Do check those who drive or operate machines as a part of their role (or even those just driving to and from work) are not over the limit from the night before.


Take action against those people who do not turn up. Everyone is in the same boat so all must attend, a hangover is NOT an excuse.


Do ensure you look after customers. They probably don’t care if it is your Christmas party, they expect the same level of service.


For more Christmas HR advice, contact us at The HR Booth on 01383 668178 or email us through our website.

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