How can employers ensure the Christmas party is trouble-free?

With the Christmas party season just around the corner XpertHR offers employers tips to ensure their work Christmas party is enjoyed by everyone and employees understand what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.

Employees’ behaviour at seasonal celebrations is a key concern for many employers in the run-up to the festive season. However, research by XpertHR1 found that two-thirds (66%) of employers do not have a policy setting out the standard of acceptable behaviour expected of their staff at Christmas celebrations.

Jo Stubbs, XpertHR’s global head of content product strategy, says: “Whether you love or loathe office parties, they are a feature of most people’s employment. Unfortunately, while many employees will let their hair down completely harmlessly, the office party may represent trouble for a small minority. Employers need to proactively communicate what is acceptable conduct, as they could find themselves vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.”

Here are XpertHR’s six tips for ensuring a trouble-free Christmas party:


  1. Be aware of the rules on vicarious liability

Remember employers are liable for acts of unlawful discrimination committed by their employees “in the course of their employment”. This encompasses acts of discrimination – including sexual and other types of harassment – at work-related events such as Christmas parties.


  1. Take all reasonable steps to prevent such acts

There is a defence for employers who can demonstrate they took all reasonable steps to prevent discriminatory acts. Employers need to take necessary measures to minimise the risk of the organisation being held vicariously liable, including providing adequate training for staff­ and disseminating appropriate policies.


  1. Make sure you have a policy on work-related social events

Employers need a clear policy on the standards of behaviour expected at work-related social events and the behaviours that are unacceptable. The policy should include the possible penalties – including dismissal – for breach of the rules and employees should be reminded about the policy as the Christmas party approaches.


  1. Check the wording of your dignity at work policy

Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of unacceptable behaviour at Christmas parties. Employers need to check their dignity at work/antiharassment policy either specifically includes work-related social events or cross-refers to their policy on work-related social events. They need to ensure employees are aware of and understand the issues covered by the policy.


  1. Issue a specific statement to employees in advance of the party

They also need to send a specific statement to attendees in the run-up to the party reminding them of the required standards of conduct. Doing this will ensure everyone has clear guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in advance. It will also provide an opportunity to remind employees about the timing and other details of the event.


  1. Monitor behaviour during the event

Designate two or three individuals to act as event supervisors, monitoring behaviour and keeping an eye on alcohol intake. Make sure that sta­ff are aware of the supervisors’ identity and know to report any concerns to them.


Jo Stubbs adds: “It is well known that alcohol loosens tongues and employees are more likely inadvertently to discuss secret company business with either fellow employees or outsiders when under its influence. Therefore, staff should be warned of the risks and consequences of this type of behaviour well ahead of the festive season.”

For guidance on writing a statement to employees in advance of a Christmas party click here.

For more information on XpertHR visit: