The Christmas party season is getting in swing, Secret Santa preparations are underway and the day to dig out your Christmas jumper has nearly arrived! These types of traditions have become annual features on the festive calendar for many workplaces. Staff often look forward to them with great enthusiasm, keen to embrace the spirit of the season. But remember they may not be welcomed by all staff.
Here are some pointers to help you mark the holiday period in a way that includes all your workforce and is memorable for the right reasons!
‘Tis the season to be inclusive
There is no doubt that having fun with colleagues during the festive period can foster a sense of community at work and lift employee mood. But as not all employees celebrate Christmas due to their cultural or religious beliefs, it is important both from an employee relation and a legal perspective that no one is made to feel uncomfortable or left out. You should therefore make clear to staff that events and activities like Christmas Jumper Day and Secret Santa are entirely optional. Similarly, remind staff that any clothing they choose to wear, or gifts they purchase, must be appropriate for a working environment. Try to embrace other cultural and religious beliefs during the year, such as Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, Chanukah and Chinese New Year, as this will help to celebrate diversity and ensure that all staff feel valued.
A little sensitivity goes a long way
Be mindful too that the holidays aren’t a time of cheer for everyone. The current cost of living crisis, along with recent political uncertainty and transport chaos, may impact how staff feel towards the seasonal build up this year. Many people find the holiday season hard to navigate, for example if they are lonely, have difficult personal relationships, are bereaved, or affected by health issues such as an eating disorder or addiction. If your organisation offers an employee assistance programme or mental health first aiders/champions, remind staff that these resources are available to provide support (financial, emotional, or otherwise).
Avoid classic party planning pitfalls
Parties are back post-lockdown, which is good news for employers who want to boost staff morale. From an inclusion perspective, it is important to make sure that everyone feels involved (if they want to be) and able to take part.
When planning work events, make sure your choices are as inclusive as possible. For example:
- Is the venue accessible for all staff, including those with disabilities, or do adjustments need to be made? Keep in mind that neurodiverse staff may find a busy evening party too loud or off-putting, so consider whether you can better accommodate their needs.
- For some staff, Covid-19 is a concern, particularly if an employee lives with someone who is vulnerable, so think about how you can make the venue as Covid-safe as possible.
- Consider the timing of your event – would a lunch or early evening event be more convenient for those staff with childcare responsibilities?
- If partners are being invited, make sure that both opposite and same sex partners are included.
- Remember that some staff may have special dietary requirements (either due to health issues or religious or cultural beliefs) and not all staff drink alcohol, so tell employees ahead of time that non-alcoholic alternatives will be provided, and special dietary requirements will be catered for. Perhaps offering afternoon tea and cake could offer a more inclusive alternative to the typical Christmas (and often alcohol-heavy) menu.
Make sure it’s alright on the night
Keep in mind that even if you hold your annual staff party off-site, outside of normal working hours, and attendance is optional, you can still potentially be held legally responsible for the actions of your employees. It is therefore prudent to remind employees in advance that, whilst your staff party is of course a social event, those attending will be expected to demonstrate the same standards of behaviour as they would in the workplace in accordance with your company’s applicable policies and training (such as Equality Policy and Anti-bullying and Harassment Policy). Make clear that conduct which breaches these standards will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action – even if influenced by alcohol.
On party night, it can be helpful to nominate certain managers to take responsibility to step in early if necessary to ensure that matters don’t get out of hand. If an employee drinks too much, or starts to behave inappropriately, make sure your ‘nominated hosts’ have authority to arrange for the individual to make an ‘exit’.
The morning after
Finally, make clear before the party that all employees are expected to attend work the following day – if it is a normal working day – and that unauthorised absence will be treated as a disciplinary matter. Turning up at work still ‘merry’ or hungover is not acceptable! Would you be willing to allow staff to start an hour later than normal? Whatever you decide, ensure that you apply any dispensation to all. Be consistent in dealing with absences in the same way you would throughout the year, using your established procedures.
How we can help
Make UK is here to support you with any guidance you may need during the festive season. If you are a Make UK subscriber, you can speak to your regular adviser for support on any of these issues. Now is a good time to check that your HR policies and procedures are up-to-date and fit for purpose. For details of how we can help you with a thorough review (available at a discounted price if purchased in December/January) please email [email protected].
If you are not a Make UK subscriber, our expert HR and legal advisers can offer guidance on a consultancy basis. For further information, contact us on 0808 168 5874 or email [email protected].
For more information on our HR and Legal services please follow the link – https://www.makeuk.org/services/hr-and-legal/equality-diversity-and-inclusion