Merry Christmas HR. Bah! Humbug!

It’s time to eat, drink and be merry as you plan your company’s Christmas party. And have your lawyers on speed dial. Festivities can lead to fallout unless you plan. If your colleagues already consider you to be the ‘fun police’, then you may as well make a good job of it. So, what should you do?

Prevention is better than cure

Remind people how you expect them to behave at the party and the risk of disciplinary action if their conduct falls below your standard.

They are still at work

Company Christmas parties are an extension of the workplace. Remind people that your policies on dignity at work, harassment and misconduct still apply even though your event is off-site and outside your normal working hours. Your business remains vicariously liable for the actions of your employees, if they are considered to be ‘in the course of employment’, particularly in respect of discrimination and injury.


Not everyone will want to attend but everyone should feel able to attend. Consider people’s childcare or caring responsibilities when deciding when and where to meet. Accommodate any disabled workers. Ensure that the food and drink options meet all religious, cultural and dietary requirements.

Monitor inappropriate behaviour

Parties are fun. But as inhibitions lower, the scope for misplaced comments, inappropriate physical contact and substance abuse rises. Consider whether to ask designated managers to discreetly monitor behaviour. Deal with misconduct under your usual discipline and grievance procedures as appropriate.

…and another thing

Emboldened by alcohol or the relaxed atmosphere, some people may identify the party as the perfect time and place to tackle their line manager about pay, promotion or other workplace matters. Discourage your managers from engaging with their team members on these topics or loosely sharing sensitive or confidential information about the business.

The morning after the night before

If you’re partying on a school night, decide what, if any latitude you will allow people with timekeeping and attendance the following day. Tell people what you expect.

Social media

Inappropriate party images could damage the company’s reputation. People may have their social media profiles linked to their work or tag the company in their photographs. Images of colleagues enjoying the work party may well find their way online. Remind people of your social media policy and their responsibilities.

Health and safety:

As an employer, you are responsible for the health and safety of your staff, even at a work party. Carefully consider how much alcohol you provide and its proportion to food. Ensure people can safely and legally travel home after the event.