Christmas parties are a great chance for employees to let off some steam, bond outside of work and get to know each other without targets and deadlines looming. But it can end up with uncomfortable conversations afterwards if things get out of control.

Every year we hear horror stories about their office Christmas parties, ranging from punch-ups and offensively drunk employees, through to extra-marital activities and unwanted advances.

It is important to remember that even if the Christmas party takes place outside of the workplace, employment laws still apply. When an employee attends a function organised by the Company, you are still responsible for their actions. That’s because, like all work-related social events, your Christmas party is an extension of the workplace.

Although most employees know how to behave at a work Christmas party, some will take the phrase “let your hair down” a bit too far. For this reason, now could be a good time to remind your employees about what’s expected from them. At the end of the day, your employees are adults and should know how to conduct themselves at work and in related social situations, but there’s no harm in issuing a reminder, to ensure no one is on this year’s naughty list! This is about ensuring that everyone understands what’s acceptable, and what will happen if behaviour falls below the required standards.

Here are a few useful tips to help you get the best out of your Christmas party:

  • Make sure everyone is included and invited – If people don’t want to come, don’t make them. Not everyone likes to be social and that is fine.
  • Be aware of religious sensitivities.
  • Be mindful that Christmas can be a difficult time of year for some people.
  • Remind everyone about their behaviour – Improper conduct or other unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated and is a serious disciplinary matter. This includes excessive drunkenness, the use of illegal drugs, unlawful or inappropriate discrimination or harassment, violence such as fighting or aggressive behaviour and serious verbal abuse or the use of other inappropriate language, whether this is towards a fellow employee, an invited guest or a member of the waiting or bar staff.
  • If there is an issue, use common sense – note down what’s happened and take appropriate action. Regardless of the situation, don’t sack someone on the spot!
  • Ensure under-18s aren’t drinking.
  • Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. The provision of free alcoholic drinks by the Company is not an excuse to drink excessively.
  • Employees should be reminded not to drink and drive. It is, above all, dangerous and illegal. Employees should make arrangements in advance to get home, for example public transport or a licensed taxi.
  • If you are having a secret Santa, it’s important to remember that we live – and work – in a society with widely differing cultures and beliefs. A present that is hugely amusing to one person might well be deeply offensive to another.
  • With the increasing use of social media ‘what happens at the Christmas party is no longer staying at the Christmas do. You need to make it clear that photographs of work colleagues slumped in the corner with #JustAnotherDayAtTheOffice are not going to boost the career prospects of whoever posted them. And remind people of your social media policy.
  • No mistletoe – It just asks for trouble!

Keep these points in mind and there’s every chance that you’ll enjoy your Christmas party and – just as importantly – you won’t spend the next day dealing with the fall-out.

If you use YourHR.Space the behaviour that is expected of your employees when attending company events will be clearly outline in your employment policies section. The social events policy lays out the conduct and rules of attending such events including reminding all employees that all company equal opportunities and harassment policies do still apply when attending. You could even make announcements to remind employees to ensure they read the policies again before an upcoming event to avoid any issues.

Fiona Haworth

However, if anything does happen at your Christmas Party and you need advice on how to deal with it,  please call Practical HR Ltd on 01702 216573 or email for advice.