Work events such as the annual Christmas party can be a great way to boost morale. They bring everyone together in a relaxed and social environment.
It also gives you the opportunity to take a break and get to know your employees better.
Sounds fun right? What could go wrong?
Well, quite a few things actually. And if you have decided to supply alcohol at such an event, beware the open can of worms that could follow.
From cringeworthy conversations to loose lips and raised eyebrows, inappropriate behaviour or even boiling tensions. What started out as an innocent off-the-clock social has the potential to end up becoming an extremely awkward situation.
The embarrassment that a merry employee might experience after some out-of-character behaviour, which itself is a troublesome matter, is bad enough.
But as their employer, you are responsible for the actions of your staff at work events and could be found legally liable for any incidents that occur.
This can even include what happens on their way home from the event or at an impromptu after-party.
Take the recent case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd for example. After a boozy Christmas party, taxis were provided to an after-party where the MD ended up punching and seriously harming an employee.
Due to the seniority of the offender and the company’s involvement in providing the alcohol and transport, the Court of Appeal found the employer to be liable.
Although people can be unpredictable, it shouldn’t deter you from going ahead with a social gathering for your staff. You can protect yourself and your employees and still have a good time with some careful planning.
By having a policy for work events and communicating it to your staff in advance, you can reiterate behavioural standards.
It would be wise to remind your employees that whilst the event is intended to be fun, it is an extension of the workplace and similar rules will apply.
If you are providing alcohol for your party, there are some things to think about. Some employees may not drink due to religious or health reasons, so consider an equal reward to cater to their needs.
For those who are drinking, it would be wise to limit consumption and think about assigning a manager or two to keep an eye out for any untoward behaviour.
You’ll also need to think about the safety of your employees, and so the location of the event should be accessible to all those invited. Consider how your employees are getting to and from the party.
Finally, you’ll likely want to make it clear that no-shows and unauthorised absences the next working day will not be tolerated. You could encourage employees to use their holiday allowance – if they have any remaining – in order to reduce the risk of this happening.
Peter Jones runs the HR Dept in Swindon and Wiltshire www.hrdept.co.uk/offices/south-west/swindon