Have a Holly, Jolly, Inclusive Christmas Party this Season


By now you have probably been invited to a number of Christmas parties, some invites may be more welcome than others, but undoubtedly attending a party is much less of a worry than organising one.

As any host knows, the success of a party is all down to the preparation. Employers throwing a workplace Christmas Party have a responsibility to ensure that everyone attending has a good time, but that they also get home safely. Ensuring this includes ensuring that nobody is discriminated against. This takes preparation, so here are our tips for making your Christmas party as inclusive as possible before you even get to the venue.

When issuing invitations to employees ensure that people do not feel pressurised to attend – not everyone enjoys socialising with their work colleagues and they should not feel stigmatised for this. Christmas lunches that happen in normal work time should not be treated as compulsory just because they are during the working day. Make it clear whether or not you are shutting the office early that day and, therefore, whether non-attendance would mean the employee stays at work or goes home early.

Also, consider whether the invitation is worded to include those employees who, for religious or personal reasons, do not celebrate Christmas. For example, in the USA, Christmas is simply called “the holidays”, which does not exclude those who have alternate mid-winter festivals.

Employees with childcare responsibilities may struggle to make an early evening start time so consider holding the event during normal working hours, e.g. lunch, or a later start time when parents will have got the babysitter organised and young children into bed.

Before the party, employers need to remind everyone attending the party of the behaviour that is expected of them at a social occasion organised by the employer and, more importantly, that the discrimination law still applies whilst attending such a function outside their physical workplace.

On the day of the party, consideration needs to be given as to how you will treat employees who would like to leave early to get ready for an evening event. Letting women go home early to get “glammed up” for the party could be sexual discrimination if you do not allow men to also leave early.

Once the party is in full swing and drinks are flowing, people can lose their inhibitions and say and do things that they would not normally. Prepare for this. Employees need to know that there is a person, or persons, responsible for everyone’s safety on the night and who they are. This person will have agreed to remain sober during the party and can be approached for help and support by any attendee experiencing anti-social behaviour.

Senior management in attendance at the party should also be reminded beforehand that they have a duty to stop inappropriate behaviour immediately by informing the perpetrator that what they are saying or doing is not acceptable and, if they continue to behave in that way, they may be facing a disciplinary process when they return to work. This extends to employees who bring the company into disrepute by speaking in an inappropriate way to the venue’s service staff.

Sexual harassment can be more likely in a social situation and employers need to be prepared to stop it from escalating. In these circumstances, separating the harasser from the harassed employee is key and you may need prior authorisation for the business to arrange and pay for a taxi to take the victim or perpetrator home immediately. In these circumstances, a similarly robust line regarding potential disciplinary action would need to be taken with any alleged perpetrator.

The workplace party should be lots of fun and following our tips should ensure that the fun remains after the hangover has gone. Looking back in January, the Christmas party will be a much happier memory if you and/or your organisation are not facing a tribunal in 2017.


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