Tis the Season to be Merry!

06 Dec


The festive season is fully underway, with dinners, parties, laughter, fun and boozy games aplenty.

Whilst the fun, games and boozy antics are predominantly sweet, there can be a sour side to the season, when not so merry occurrences like sexual harassment, racial slurs and drunken fisticuffs go down at the office party.

In a recent case, one employee, accused another of unwarranted advances at the end of an evening; Judge Justice Maloney handed down his very own ‘guide to flirting at work’. His guide included advice on directness, suggesting it’s far better to say, ‘please correct me if I’m wrong, but can I clarify the signals I’m picking up from you', one can then laugh it off if the signal turns out to have been misunderstood.

Following in Justice Maloney’s footsteps, we thought we’d devise our own ‘HR guide to Christmas at work.’

A key fact to remember is that an employer has full responsibility for their staff at office functions, this could mean that the Company ends up vicariously liable for an incident by default. For this reason, be aware of the following guidelines:

Prevent Problems:

·       Remind employees in advance of any applicable policies.  Be clear that misconduct may lead to formal disciplinary action and the behaviour expectations the Company has.

·       Consider having some ‘nominated managers’ with a role of keeping sober and casting an eye on events…they may need to insist someone goes home in a taxi!

·       Have some order to a ‘free’ bar, such as a token system and do not place excessive amounts of drinks on tables.

·       Encourage collective responsibility, i.e. make employees responsible for their colleagues (particularly in relation to alcohol consumption and behaviour).

·       Prohibit work vehicles being taken to functions unless the driver is a nominated sober driver.

·       Remind employees the party is for fun, a celebratory treat for all, and that employees who do not adhere to the policy or code of conduct on behaviour will spoil the party for everyone.


Manage incidents sensibly:

When it comes to the party itself, there’s a certain level of pragmatism that won’t go amiss.

·      Don’t start a disciplinary procedure for every little incident, obviously. Deal with serious issues of inappropriate behaviour or misconduct properly. If someone just got a little too carried away with the Christmas cheer perhaps just have a quiet word later on when soberness resumes is all that’s needed.

·      Don’t leave issues to escalate. Act quickly if you see something happening, step in and try to solve it or stop it, and make sure your senior managers do the same. The last thing you want to hear is that they saw something and did nothing about it!

Most importantly, make it fun and appreciative of everyone’s efforts that year!!