16/12/2005

Caution urged over seasonal party 'pitfalls'

Failure to prepare Christmas events at work properly could lead to alarm bells replacing jingle bells for employers, warns business advisors Croner, who have issued a Top Ten set of rules to help bosses host a safe celebration.

Top Ten 'Rules of the Yule' are:
  • Set a 'Party Policy' - from the employer's point of view, the Christmas party is classed as a 'work activity'. It therefore should be treated as such by having guidelines.
  • Identify potential hazards - just as with any other work-related activity, a risk assessment must be carried out to identify potential hazards.
  • Issue behavioural guidelines - this should be included in the 'Party Policy' and should clarify unacceptable behaviour, such as harassment, bullying and fighting.
  • Invite husbands, wives and life-partners - if inviting employees' partners this should not be restricted to husbands and wives but also extended to partners to avoid potential sexual orientation discrimination claims.
  • Avoid 'tipple tattle' - avoid discussing promotion, career prospects or salary with employees who may use the convivial situation to discuss matters that are more suited to a formal appraisal or private meeting.
  • Limit the spirit - if the employer supplies the alcohol, they may be legally responsible for the welfare of the employee if they suffer from drink induced disasters.
  • Don't poison your staff - if providing a buffet, the food must be safe to eat. Buffets present a particularly high risk of food poisoning.
  • Ditch the mistletoe - a festive fling under the mistletoe can cause embarrassment in the workplace and put strain on working relationships.
  • Curb drink-driving - as employers are responsible for employees' actions after consuming alcohol they have provided, sensible bosses will issue advice before the party about not driving after having an alcoholic drink.
  • Don't expect miracles the morning after - bosses should decide to what extent they will be lenient to staff coming to work with a hangover, arriving late, or even not at all, and inform employees accordingly.
Research by Croner indicated that one in two parties end up with colleagues fighting, one in three with incidents of sexual harassment, and one in five with accidents involving employees.

(SP/KMcA)

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