Weekly dilemma: Christmas parties

I am the HR manager of a large UK hotel chain and I am currently planning our Christmas party. In recent years, we have seen an increase in excessive drinking with all the consequences that follow, upsetting many of our older and foreign members of staff. Can we either ban drinking or issue guidelines/limits at the party this year?

If you ban alcohol completely from a Christmas party, the chances are that the party is not going to be much of a party for many employees, and you run the risk of alienating or demoralising those staff. Therefore, you should consider some simple but effective steps in relation to alcohol and the party in general:

  • Set a limit for the number of free drinks that are available and ask people to stop drinking if they appear to be a little worse for wear.
  • Ensure that soft drinks are as freely available as alcoholic drinks.
  • Remember, the party is an extension of the workplace, so the laws concerning discrimination and harassment still apply. Make sure staff are reminded of your company’s bullying and harassment policies beforehand, along with guidelines about acceptable behaviour.
  • Think about how people are going to get home – you have a duty of care to your staff so do not let them drive home when they are obviously well into their ninth Bacardi Breezer.

If you have older or foreign staff, then try and make sure that they feel included. Ensure any music played will suit everyone, and that any entertainment takes account of all ages and races/religions.

Finally, remember that you and any other management should be setting an example. Ensure senior managers do not keep drinking until they have equalled their previous record of pints in one night, and that they do not insist their employees go and join them under the mistletoe. Make sure you are not seen to be condoning such behaviour, as it will become difficult to take action against any employees who do step out of line. Oh, and remember to unplug the photocopier.

Stuart Jones, partner, Weightmans

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