Over the 12 days of Christmas the average person is set to consume 3 bottles of wine, 18 pints of beer and 1 bottle of spirits – around 137 units of alcohol. During the festive period the amount of alcohol consumed in the UK is 41% higher than any other time of year. This brings huge implications to health and safety and puts companies in a vulnerable position when it comes to their drug and alcohol policy.
One example of this is the annual staff Christmas party. This can be a tricky thing to manage. By all means you want everyone to enjoy themselves and have a good time, but equally you don’t want anything that happens during the party to affect every day working life. Common issues that arise include fighting, sexual harassment, threatening behaviour and other forms of inappropriate behaviour like discrimination. For this reason, it’s good to have an effective workplace drug and alcohol policy in place and a plan for the party.
One common misconception of a work Christmas party is that if it happens outside work then the company has no responsibility. This is incorrect. There have been many cases brought to court over incidents that have occurred at the Christmas party. If certain conduct is not appropriate during working hours it won’t be condoned just because you are out of the office. To try and avoid these types of issues there are steps an employer can take:
- Remind staff that they are still at work and to be on their usual good behaviour
- Pick a finish time and stick to it. Let everyone know when it is
- Make sure everyone is able to get home safely. As an employer you have an obligation to ensure staff safety, especially if they have been drinking
It may seem like a strange concept to try and introduce rules and tell staff to behave at a party, but ultimately it’s the best thing for them. Nobody wants to get carried away and make a fool of themselves and end up being the talking point of the night the next morning. The work Christmas party should be viewed as an event for staff to socialise with each other in an informal environment and to ultimately have a good time.